Gather Round | Private Eye | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
Support the Free Press.
Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters.
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984.
Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

News » Private Eye

Gather Round


Driving in and out of Salt Lake is dismal these days. I arrive and depart via Interstate 15, so for a good stretch, my drive takes me along West Temple. On the corner of 400 South and West Temple sits the now-abandoned Shubrick Building looking like a used-up whore, not the belle of the ball she used to be.

Once home to Port O’ Call, the most successful nightclub Salt Lake City has ever seen, the Shubrick housed the very heart of Salt Lake City’s nightlife—or what was left of it. Like previous mayors and administrations, Mayor Ralph Becker and the City Council sat on the sidelines while the federal government—claiming it needs the Shubrick property for a new federal courthouse—cut the heart out of the Shubrick and left it lifeless.

That’s not to say those Salt Lake City officials didn’t write letters of protest. I could never be so crass to accuse them of not writing letters of moral support. Such efforts don’t amount to much. Just look around.

From the Sugar House hole to the weeds that grow upon the old Bill & Nada’s restaurant lot, to the decrepit Zephyr Club and Dead Goat spaces, to the pile of rocks that once held up Spanky’s and the equally victimized Odd Fellows building on the same block as the Shubrick, Salt Lake City is home to an unusual number of ugly scars. By day, I drive by the dowdy old Shubrick that the federal government heaped on Salt Lake City.

I guess I could turn my head or take another route, but State Street isn’t a charmer, either. The old NAC warehouses on the near west side negate a blissful 500 or 600 South traverse. By night, I have to wonder if I want to walk in the Shubrick area, despite that just a few months ago, it was safe and sound to do so. However, I know things will change and I can give two examples:

 1. It only took the billionaire Earl Holding 20 years to doll up his 10-acre mess across from the Shubrick and turn it into a parking lot.

2. Up the street, a new breed of entrepreneur is rebuilding Salt Lake City’s nightlife in ways that mayors and city councils can only twiddle their thumbs about. Salt Lakers were sold the idea that 300 South—Broadway—could one day become an organized entertainment district with robust clubs, restaurants and venues stretching from Main Street to Tony Caputo’s Deli.

Meanwhile, in nooks and crannies all around 300 South small clubs and eateries have opened and, in effect, are creating with private dollars and solo initiative, an entertainment district that doesn’t require lost pledges from mayors and city councils. On 200 South across from the Salt Palace is The Hotel, perhaps the largest nightclub in Salt Lake now, boasting four floors of throbbing nightlife.

Next to it is Club Elevate with its spacious dance floor. Their neighbors include the eateries Toasters and the new J. Wong’s Asian Bistro. The Hilton has Spencer’s Steakhouse. One block west of the Hilton are Red Rock Brewing Co., Settebello Pizza plus the new and popular Poplar Street Club.

Third South is anchored by Squatters, the Metropolitan and Christopher’s. Just off 300 South at West Temple, a new club called Gracie’s, staffed by former Port O’ Call employees, will open in the former Club Naked space. South of Gracie’s are W, Mo’s Grill and Club Bliss. The center of it all is Pierpont Street between 200 South and 300 South at West Temple.

Donovan’s steakhouse will replace the lost Ruth’s Chris on Pierpont. Lumpy’s Downtown remains a major attraction there, and that club is cooperating with the owners of Hotel, Bliss and Elevate in a new Pierpont venture called the Sandbar and Grill. Sandbar opens this week in the space once known as Café Pierpont. I’ve been to my share of local club openings, but few have the look and feel of Sandbar. Every table and column is an artpiece of Mexican beer caps, regional paraphernalia and kitsch. One look at the 1,500-year-old juniper-tree bar top or the Corona chandelier, and you’ll know Sandbar is a private club like nothing you’ve ever seen in Salt Lake City. Handmade taco bar? Check.

On July 1, private clubs go away, and not too soon for the Sandbar management who are earnestly trying to transform the area loosely outlined above into the vibrant, diverse attraction that Salt Lake City seriously lacks.

Third South is anchored by Squatters, the Metropolitan and Christ opher’s.

With no private-club rules to hassle patrons (or to slow entry into clubs that only have a few hours to make their income), it’s a reality that Salt Lake City may finally have a concise district that can be marketed and bragged about by elected officials who would otherwise sit on their butts. Meanwhile, the Hotel, Elevate, Bliss, Lumpy’s Downtown and Sandbar are carrying the water and branding themselves as The Pierpont Entertainment District. I’ve looked around and can find no evidence that the Feds want another “Courthouse to Nowhere” in that area.

Nor are there any lurking parking lot barons or billionaire Scrooges looking to move in. If governments and myopic tightwads stay out of the way, the Pierpont Entertainment District has a real chance to transform downtown Salt Lake City—especially if additional venues hop aboard or if the district expands to include Main Street with its TRAX stops.

To help, Salt Lake City needs to be rid of the two-liquor-establishment-per-facing-block rule and should also establish a downtown transit network to move people about. Or we can just keep pretending that Salt Lake City is a real cool place to hang out.