The live entertainment industry took repeated casualties in 2020. The worst of those casualties occurred in small venues whose nightly revenue depended on capacity. Small businesses like these create communities and necessary platforms for local artists to cut their teeth and gain exposure. They are everywhere, in every city, in every state across the country. When health orders prevented mass gatherings, one of these venues in my hometown, Youngstown, Ohio, faced an uncertain future, until a local band started an ingenious chain of pizza donations.
Westside Bowl became a staple in the Youngstown music scene upon opening its doors a few years ago. With a bar, bowling alley, and music venue format, it added a unique setting for live entertainment. COVID shutdowns paralyzed live concerts and, therefore, Westside Bowl.
Their only mode of business became providing takeout orders to the community. That’s when Barley Rantilla, Steve Gardner, and Steve Wishnewski of Rebreather stepped up. They started a chain reaction in the following months that, according to Metal Injection’s interview with the band, has now surpassed 3,000 pizza donations.
When speaking with Youngstown publication Mahoning Matters, owner of Westside Bowl, Nate Offerdahl, stated, “Rebreather called me and said, ‘Hey we’re going to stop up and we want to donate 10 pizzas to the next 10 people,’ so we made a little video of it posted on Facebook.” Offerdahl went on to say, “It’s keeping us open. It’s also allowing us to facilitate the generosity of others, which is a humbling experience.”
While the pizza donations continue, Westside Bowl cannot yet host big crowds. They do, however, air live-stream shows on their Facebook page for music lovers to get their fix.