Philly Dive Bar Doobies Raises More than $27,000 In Two Days to Save Itself from Closing
"I'm just so utterly humbled," says Doobies owner Patti Brett in response to the crowdfunding.
When your average bar is about to go under, it just goes under. Oh, a handful of people will be sad. There may be a good crowd on closing night, reminiscing about the many misspent evenings that regulars tend to have inside a place of alcohol worship. And then, poof. Gone. But Doobies is not your average bar.
On Sunday, Doobies owner Patti Brett (if her name sounds familiar to you, it could be because she once chased down and punched somebody who stole a piece of David Bowie memorabilia from her David Bowie memorabilia-covered bar or because of that David Bowie book whose cover Brett, who is Philly’s number one David Bowie fan, adorns) took to Facebook to let her friends and fans know that Doobies was on its last legs.
“Well, it’s looking like our days at Doobies are numbered,” she wrote. “After coming off the worst week we’ve ever had, I served 3 drinks today. I can’t hang on much longer… I can’t pay any of my bills anymore. On Oct 28th, it will be 42 years since my mom bought the bar. I tried to keep it going, but I’m not holding out much hope at this point. Unless there’s an uptick in customers in the next couple of weeks, Doobies will be saying a final last call. Looks like I’m going to be looking for a job soon. Any suggestions for what I can do that will be easy on my knees?”
“It broke my heart,” one of my colleagues told me after reading her post. “I teared up.”
A lot of other people had some pretty strong feelings about this as well, it turns out.
Brett launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to try to save her dying business. I would have thought that she’d hit a few thousand. Maybe. Show’s you what I know.
In just two days, Brett’s GoFundMe for Doobies has raised… wait for it… more than $24,000 in contributions from about 330 donors. And a Doobies GoFundMe set up by one of Brett’s friends has raised another $3,100 and change from 34 donors. The grand total, which will certainly keep climbing, was a perfectly palindromic $27.272 as of 7 a.m. on Thursday morning.
And some Doobies fans are finding their own ways to raise money for the bar.
Philadelphia artist Natalie Hope McDonald will draw your portrait in your favorite COVID mask for $125, donating 19 percent to the Doobies cause, the 19 a nod to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Best of Philly-winning karaoke DJ Sara Sherr is hosting a special Zoom karaoke fundraiser for Doobies, naturally encouraging participants to belt out their favorite David Bowie song.
I asked Sherr why the heck everybody is rallying around this one particular Philadelphia dive bar.
“Because it is the soul of Philly bar culture, the way many independent businesses are,” Sherr observes. “It has a unique character to the scene, and it would be sad to lose it.
Plus, Sherr has some pretty big memories from Doobies.
“My husband and I spent a lot of time there early in our relationship bonding over all the Bowie in the jukebox,” Sherr says.
In an interview on Wednesday, Brett told me that Doobies was already having its share of issues before the pandemic struck Philadelphia. Bills were piling up. Business wasn’t what it used to be, for whatever reason. And then COVID-19 just tore Doobies apart. She says she owes a lot of money to PGW and PECO.
“And I can’t remember the last time I even looked at my water bill,” Brett says.
Plus, there are back taxes she owes to the city and state. And the problem with that — beyond just owing a bunch of money to the city and state — is that you can’t renew your liquor license until you clear up those back taxes. It’s just the way it works.
And while most bars clamored to reopen indoors once the city allowed it, Brett still won’t let anybody inside. She serves food and drinks through the door at Doobies.
“I’m just not comfortable allowing anybody inside,” she explains. “It’s way too small inside. I don’t feel comfortable exposing myself to people who are not in masks indoors — keep in mind that I’m going to be 65 next week — and I certainly don’t want anyone getting ill because they drank inside at Doobies. I can’t do it with a clear conscience.”
So will all of this generosity ensure a future for Doobies?
“I didn’t see any hope before,” Brett says. “But now I see a lot of hope. I’m just so utterly humbled. I’m overwhelmed. Yes, I need both of my knees replaced. Yes, I’m getting old. But I’ve been doing this since I was 22. This bar is literally all of my adult life. And I love it. I will do this until I just absolutely can’t.”