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Guides » City Guide

Dark Star: Clubs & Nightlife

Utah’s weird liquor laws fade, and city nightlife moves into high gear.

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Scott Harker at Burt's Tiki Lounge - RUBY JOHNSON
  • Ruby Johnson
  • Scott Harker at Burt's Tiki Lounge
Years ago, gift shops sold a postcard entitled “Salt Lake After Dark.” The front of the card was painted black—the joke being that Utah is entirely void of nightlife. That is—how-do-you-say?—ridiculous.

Salt Lake City might not offer the same 24-7 exploits available in Manhattan or Los Angeles, but with 2009’s normalization of the state’s quirky liquor regulations, you might just be surprised at what you find. With the right guide (in this case, City Weekly), newcomers can treat themselves to a bevy of live-music offerings, delicious and potent beer, and a cast of characters that propel this town from dull to wow.

Looking for something low-key? We’ll take you to the best neighborhood bars perfect for hiding out or catching up. Or maybe you’ve been meaning to take in that raucous comedy everyone’s talking about, and craving a beer to go with it. We know just the place. To help speed the process, we’ve broken down the nightlife guide into Live Music Venues, Sports Bars, Bumpin’ & Grindin’, Cruisin’ for Boozin’, and Somethin’ Different.

Wherever you end up, the evening is sure to elicit colorful memories. And that’s worth writing home about.

5 Monkeys
Even though it’s in the heart of quiet Murray, 5 Monkeys makes noise six nights a week as a sports bar, dance club and music joint. Acts range from rock to rap to reggae, and Thursday Ladies’ Night is the best bet in the zip code. Even the food is a cut-above average bar chow; try the ravioli special on Mondays. 7 E. 4800 South, Murray, 801-266-1885, 5MonkeysBarSlc.com

A Bar Named Sue
A whiskey bar pouring 50 different strains of its favorite spirit, Sue serves plenty of other libations at wallet-friendly prices—a running theme at a club where guests can also catch local musical favorites for a mere $5. Stop in for live rock, blues and Americana Tuesday and weekend nights, plus karaoke Monday and Thursday (after that last whiskey shot does its thing). 3928 S. Highland Drive, Holladay, 801-274-5578

Located on the “edge of town,” according to downtown dwellers, Abyss offers one last chance to rock before hitting Salt Lake International Airport. Expect loud rock and metal on weekends; Disco Inferno on Thursdays. 1390 W. North Temple, 801-521-8500

Bar Deluxe
Reincarnated, and it feels so good. After a brief hiatus, the venue with a wicked address (666 S. State) returned under new management with continued allegiance to in-house troupe Slippery Kittens Burlesque. Live touring and local bands plus DJs keep the place going Tuesday through Saturday. 666 S. State, 801-532-2914

Burt’s Tiki Lounge
It’s difficult to imagine SLC without Burt’s Tiki Lounge. A salty-dog institution with punk-rock flair, it hosts a surprisingly vast and eclectic range of touring/local bands—from Mike Watt to French chanteuse Marianne Dissard. 726 S. State, 801-521-0572, Myspace.com/BurtsTikiLounge

Circle Lounge
Once a chill jazz lounge, this downtown hotspot now features internationally acclaimed live DJs spinning house, trance and hip-hop in a newly remodeled space with updated sound system. Arrive early to sample the revamped wine and sushi menu. 328 S. State, 801-531-5400, MyCircleLounge.com

Club 90
Like a slice of old-school Las Vegas in the middle of Sandy, flashy 30-year nightspot Club 90 has a little something for everyone—and a buffet. On the weekends, it’s one of the few places in the valley where you’ll find classic rock, R&B and dance-hits show bands plying their trade for a packed dance floor; the rest of the week, it’s the best place in the area to catch a game. And as far as clubs go, it has the most expansive menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner around. 9065 Monroe St., Sandy, 801-566-3254, Club90SLC.com

Club Edge
Edge shifts gears from night-to-night. Promoters resurrect the defunct Trapp Door’s popular Thursday house parties, then turn over the spotlight to rockers for raucous, live gigs in a spacious, bare-bones warehouse space. 615 N. 400 West, 801-755-6389

Club Vegas
Hard, grinding metal is Club Vegas’ forte; if your favorite label or local band has an aggressive, multi-syllabic name and a pointy logo, they’ve either played here or they’re on next month’s lineup. The bar also features a long-running industrial DJ night (Das Machine Wednesdays, with Reverend 23). 445 S. 400 West, 801-364-8347, Myspace.com/ClubVegasRocks

The Depot
One of the largest downtown venues, The Depot lives up to its name providing a cavernous space for bands that fully utilize the impressive sound system. Frequent guests include Leftover Salmon and Michael Franti, but Wolfmother and Zero 7 diversified the mix in ’09. Vinyl Fridays transform the place into a pulsating dance spot with ample room to get down. 400 W. South Temple, 801-355-5522, DepotSLC.com

The spirit of Salt Lake City’s Port O’ Call (RIP) lives on at this spacious downtown club owned and operated by former Port employees. Gracie’s weekly lineup features a mix of live blues, jazz, rock and DJs performing at night. With a friendly staff, gourmet menu and game room, this is a great place to kick back after work or party the night away. 326 S. West Temple, 801-819-7565, GraciesSlc.com

The Green Pig Pub
One of the newest bars in downtown Salt Lake City, the Green Pig Pub was an instant hit with clubbers missing the late Port O’ Call (the Pig is owned and operated by a former Port bartender) and newbies alike—even the mayor showed up for the grand opening. There’s a lot going on in a seemingly small space: Pool table, eight flat-screens, a full kitchen and live music most nights of the week. 31 E. 400 South, 801-532-7441, TheGreenPigPub.com

The Hog Wallow Pub
The Hog Wallow is an old neighborhood bar in the middle of a new ‘hood, but its log-cabin décor and spacious patio are far apart from the office parks and condos. Live entertainment Wednesdays through the weekend features mostly local bands, playing bluegrass, funk, acoustic rock, ska and reggae. 3200 E. Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, 801-733-5567, TheHogWallow.com

The Huka Bar & Grill
You can still smoke hookahs in SLC’s cigarette-and-cigar-free bars, and no place does it bigger and better (and, of course, sexier) than the joint from whence it all began: Murray’s Huka Bar & Grill. It’s also the only club in the 801 to focus almost exclusively on reggae music, with DJs and bands rooted in the Jamaican flavor. For the young and the hot, look (and smoke) no further. 151 E. 6100 South, Murray, 801-281-4852, MySpace.com/TheHukaBar

In the Venue
The biggest (and soon-to-be-biggest) touring acts play In the Venue, the hybrid indoor/outdoor/bar/all-ages room on the burgeoning West Side that also functions as a dance club (Club Sound, to be exact). TRAX and fine Chinese food (Hong Kong Teahouse) adjacent. 200 S. 600 West, 801-359-3219, MySpace.com/InTheVenue

Johnny’s on Second
Five pool tables, seven TVs, over 40 beers and some of the best pizzas available in the downtown area, and it’s open seven days a week—you can count on Johnny’s on Second. Local alt- and roots-rock bands play the front-window stage on Saturdays and Wednesdays; DJs on Fridays and Tuesdays; free Texas Hold ‘Em on Thursdays. 165 E. 200 South, 801-746-3334, JohnnysOnSecond.com

Sugar House hotspot covers all borders of the Hispanic music world, hosting live touring bands and DJs from South America, Central America and North America. Diverse entertainment attracts diverse crowds, from college kids to older crowds who appreciate the club’s attention to legendary as well as new artists. Karamba is also the only place in Utah where you can get Quilmes beer and Fernet liquor. 1051 E. 2100 South, 801-696-0639, Myspace.com/KlubKaramba

Keys On Main
Conveniently located across from TRAX, Keys On Main is a spacious, classy piano bar suitable for a quiet after-work cocktail followed by an evening of lively music and dancing. Expect a younger crowd dressed for a night on the town. 242 S. Main Street, 801-363-3638, KeysOnMain.com

Kilby Court
Salt Lake City’s longest-running all-ages venue enjoys a symbiotic relationship with its surrounding community, feeding off the energy of each new generation of music lovers and nurturing emerging artists—tomorrow’s bona fide indie legends. This is the place where Devendra Banhart played around a fire pit, where Cold War Kids performed for 10 people and where countless kids first realized they, too, could start a band. Early show times allow folks to catch the 21 gig later across town. 741 S. 330 West (Kilby Court), KilbyCourt.com.

Liquid Joe’s
Wednesdays and Fridays belong to local-music fans, who’ve been cheering on waves of alternative-rock bands (including major-label signees Royal Bliss, who cut their teeth here) since the club’s beginnings. Thursdays and Saturdays are for the party animals who can’t get enough of The Metal Gods and The Spazmatics, both of whom have been packing the joint for years. 1249 E. 3300 South, 801-467-5637, LiquidJoes.net

Lucky 13
Decked out in owner/motorcycle enthusiast Jason Stucki’s personal Harley memorabilia, this recently remodeled club features a spacious patio, pool tables, a 100-inch HD TV and a dynamite Breath Enhancer garlic burger. Conveniently located across the street from TRAX, its weekly lineup includes live acoustic music and DJs with eclectic crates. 135 W. 1300 South, 801-487-4418

Murray Theater
Originally opened as an art moderne movie house in the 1930s (first films screened: The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind), the Murray Theater today hosts a steady stream of touring rock shows in a classic (and alcohol-free) setting. Sho, a smaller venue for more intimate shows, resides within the Murray. 4959 S. State, 801-654-6678, MySpace.com/MurrayTheater

Pat’s Barbecue
Live roots and blues music on the stage, a beer in your hand, killer barbecue on your plate—Pat’s Barbecue is like stepping out of Salt Lake City into Austin, minus the humidity. The Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives-approved and City Weekly Best of Utah-regular eatery hosts the occasional big-name touring blues act, but locals provide the tunes most nights of the week. 155 W. Commonwealth Ave. (2125 South), South Salt Lake, 801-485-5963, PatsBBQ.com

Poplar Street Pub
Live bands on the acoustic side and a kitchen that stays open late make the Poplar Street Pub a chill joint in otherwise bustling downtown Salt Lake City. The surprisingly spacious club also has plenty of pool tables and games, and a roomy patio for summertime wining and dining. 242 S. 200 West, 801-532-2715

Piper Down
If it’s not Irish, it’s crap! Well, that’s not exactly true, but Piper Down does hold vigil for St. Patrick’s Day throughout the year, hosting parties that count down the hours to the blessed event. In between culturally relevant f%uFFFDtes, the mid-town venue also hosts live local and touring bands, Salt City Swing Night Tuesdays, fierce Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments and, perhaps begrudgingly, other holiday-themed parties. Good beer goes with everything. 1492 S. State, 801-468-1492, PiperDownPub.com

The Rail
Ambitious addition to downtown Salt Lake City features 42,000 square-feet of floor space, VIP lounges, banquet seating, ample room to dance and socialize, a digital-recording studio and many other amenities designed to meet any occasion: concerts, private parties, trade shows and corporate events. Past musical headliners include 30 Seconds to Mars and genre-bending Kalai. Who will stop in next? 235 N. 500 West, 801-326-5014, TheRailEventCenter.com

Saints & Sinners
With hookahs, DJs, dancing, a sports bar and a patio overlooking State Street, Saints & Sinners is a lot of club in a small South Salt Lake space. S&S upstairs is all about big screens, foosball, pool tables and videogames; downstairs, a red velvet lounge with hookahs and a dance floor bumping to hip-hop. 3040 S. State, 801-604-0869, MySpace.com/SaintsAndSinnersPub

The State Room
Formerly a children’s theater, The State Room is now a venue for grown-ups—in other words, simply civilized. Since opening in Spring 2009, the 300-capacity venue has endeared itself to music lovers who appreciate the cozy, repurposed church-pew seating, open dance floor and reasonable show times. Doors open at 8 p.m., held open by a polite “bouncer” who is ever-so-gracious. Past headliners include Charlie Hunter, Deer Tick, Aimee Mann and Great Lake Swimmers. 638 S. State,800-501-2885, TheStateRoomSLC.com

The Tavernacle
The original home of the dueling-pianos show has become a Broadway (as in, 300 South) staple over seven years, attracting everyone from jazz cats to college students to older folks who remember when “Piano Man” was a hit, not a kitschy classic. In addition to an impressive lineup of pianists, the Tavernacle also hosts some of the liveliest karaoke in town Sundays and Tuesdays. 201 E. 300 South, 801-519-8900, Tavernacle.com

If only every log cabin featured six bars! This spacious club is built out of genuine pine logs and offers guests a feeling of security and comfort most places don’t provide—plus a large dance floor, live music and one of the last shuffleboards in town. 538 S. Redwood Road, 801-975-0401

Urban Lounge
It’s all about the music at Urban, except for the nights Mike Brown Fest turns the place into a skate ramp. More traditional weekly lineups feature big-name touring acts and local favorites. Promoters routinely bring in must-see artists including Dr. Dog, Passion Pit, Silver Jews, GZA, The Hold Steady and other bands poised to take over the world. Friendly, unpretentious bartenders add to the laidback vibe (even if they can’t always make out what you’re saying). Earplugs available at the door. 241 S. 500 East, 801-746-0557, Myspace.com/TheUrbanLounge

W Lounge
Don’t let the American Apparel-crowd scare you off—this is prime country for cutting-edge electronic sound, with Scenester Siege booking rising stars from Paris to Chicago. 2009 went off with national emcees and live DJs including Kid Sister, Million $ Mano, Thunderheist and Rye Rye and Hector Romero, plus weekly local house, soul and indie-dance nights. 358 S. West Temple,801-359-0637, Myspace.com/WLounge

The Westerner Club
For straight-up country & western music and ambience, there’s no place in Salt Lake City like the Westerner Club on Redwood Road. Live bands and line-dancing pack ‘em in on the weekends; karaoke and dance lessons on weeknights. Don’t worry about getting in on a busy night, folks—the Westerner is as big as Texas. 3360 S. Redwood Road, West Valley City, 801-972-5447, MySpace.com/The_Westerner

Tucked just feet away from the popular State Street taco vendors treating late-night cravings, this live-music venue brings in an eclectic range of touring and local bands, from Portland’s Alexis Gideon to homegrown favorites Glinting Gems and Band of Annuals. In Fall 2009, new owners replaced the bright green exterior with less glaring blue walls surrounding the picture-window stage. 60 E. 800 South, 801-364-0805, Myspace.com/TheWoodshedSlc