in mild theme of talking to venue owners this week, we make our way
back down to Salt Lake City and get a peek into The Urban Lounge.
Upon entry you realize that the building wasn't originally designed
to do anything more than be a mild-western themed restaurant. But
don't let the packaging fool you. Urban Lounge has become a hotspot
in the downtown area for a number of local acts to come in and play
for an older audience, giving hip-hop and rock acts another place to
shine, all while still maintaining a bar under the strange and
confusing liquor laws our local government has instated. I got a
chance to ask co-owner Casey Gill about the venue and other
questions. I didn't have a picture of Casey and I would have done a
doodle of her just for fun, but I'm a horrible artist. So instead I
have pictures of the venue and artists playing. ---
Gavin: Who are you and tell us a little about yourself?
Casey: I am Casey Gill, 27, a student, studying Social Work and one of the owners of The Urban Lounge.
Gavin: Tell us about Urban Lounge and how it came to be.
Casey: Urban Lounge was my sister's project originally. She wanted to make a lounge type dive-bar where people would come get a drink and relax on the couch with friends. In those days we were open from Noon to 2AM. We had regulars that would come in and play chess and backgammon. We had bands that would play occasionally but it was very different then it is today. I started out doing the books and taking care of all the administrative issues. Later, I would come in after class with all my textbooks and study while working at the door checking ID's and memberships.
Gavin: When did you take over?
Casey: About six months after the opening my sister decided the business wasn't a good fit for her and was going to move to San Francisco. My brother Jared Gill and I decided to buy it and change things up. We wanted to support the local music scene and local artists. Jared knew Mike Sartain from high school and knew he was very involved with the local music scene. We brought Sartain in to do all the booking. With the restaurant next door we can't have bands start until 10pm and since there was no profit staying open during the day we decided to cut the hours to 9pm-2am. Mike really brought the whole thing together. I had no experience with the local scene. In the beginning touring acts would open for local headliners. Now that we work with a lot of nationally recognizable bands they headline and local bands get really excited to open for people they admire. Mike still handles all the booking and he has a vested ownership in the club.
Gavin: When did you decide to become an owner?
Casey: I never really decided, the opportunity just presented itself. Up until a year ago I have always held another job along with Urban, often more than one. I like to stay busy.
Gavin: What were the early days like owning it?
Casey: It was a learn as you go experience. We have great people behind the bar that helped us learn the business. They managed other bars before working at Urban and are still working there today. Dave Combs actually runs the Urban for me now. When I went back to school he stepped up and took over for me. I stop in on a regular basis and he keeps me very well informed. He is much more in touch with the scene, he plays in a couple of different bands, so it makes a lot more sense that he handles things.
Gavin: Have things worked out with booking and working with S&S?
Casey: Most of our acts do come from S&S Productions, which is Will Sartain and Lance Saunders who also own Kilby Court. They are really great at what they do and it's wonderful to work with them. It's great that there is a place where people under 21 can see the same bands that previously you could only see at Urban Lounge. It means a lot less fake ID's for us to look for. I have known Will for several years and Lance since before high school, I have no doubt that Kilby will be a success.
Gavin: Do you feel the twenty-one music bars are a dying breed in Utah or making a comeback?
Casey: A twenty-one venue has it's ups and downs. There are a lot of amazing bands that people miss because they haven't heard of them yet. I big downside is mid-terms, finals, taxes, and after Christmas. People need to study or just don't have the money to come out. Still, I think there will always be a place for the twenty-one venues. People love music.
Gavin: Have the local liquor laws affected you any?
Casey: I think the new liquor laws are ridiculous. They only benefit restaurants and hurt bars. People don't really know that our previous laws weren't much different than other states. There are a few states and some of Canada that have the same or more strict laws than the ones they just changed. Some states still have dry counties. Really, Utah laws have never been that bad until now. I can't really know the impact they will have until next month but I am not looking forward to them. I don't know anyone in the industry that is looking forward to them.
Gavin: What's your take on the local music scene both good and bad?
Casey: We have a lot of really talented local musicians, and a lot that should never leave their garage. While I can usually find some redeeming quality in any band some are like watching a bad movie. You just keep watching and hoping it will get better and it never does. A lot of the employees at Urban are in one or more bands and we know a lot of the local musicians pretty well. Salt Lake has also lost a lot of amazing bands too like Debi Graham, she has one of the strongest voices I've ever heard.
Gavin: If you could make a top five, who do you think are some top local acts to see?
Casey: It's hard for me to pick five top local bands I would probably do better with ten but I'll give it a shot. In no particular order, High Beams, Coyote Hoods, Palamino, Starmy and The Pleasure Thieves. And MindState, I'm a big hip hop fan.
Gavin: Any plans ahead for Urban Lounge, or will you just be sticking to doing what you're doing?
Casey: Well, we are always looking to improve things but music is always going to be what we focus on. I am always open to any suggestions, but I think we have a good thing going right now. We have a great staff, people see amazing live music, and bands have a great venue to play in.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug?
Casey: Three things. First, bands play for the door money so people should come out and support friends, family, and local musicians. Second, bartenders work for tips so keep that in mind when paying your tab. Third, our website is where you can find out who's playing a month or more in advance.