AUGUST 21, 2003

Bar Trek
A Tour of Salt Lake City's Alcohol-Drenched Nightlife

By RED Staff Members
Photos by Sarah Morton

rinks and entertainment often go hand in hand. Things are more entertaining when you’re drunk, drunks are sometimes entertaining to watch, and a wide variety of musical entertainment fills the hard-liquor-serving venues that are Salt Lake City’s private clubs. So in this year’s BarTrek, RED visited the clubs that deliver the rock, the Irish, the folk and the amateur music that makes for a fun, alcohol-filled nightlife.

Lou, a magic man, drinks his fifth beer at O'Shuck's while waiting for his sushi.  

O’Shuck’s Gives Sushi a Try
O’Shuck’s Bar and Grill/ Ahh Sushi
22 E. 100 South

by Jeremy Mathews and Jamie Gadette

Metallica’s last visit to Salt Lake City included a pre-show dinner at Ahh Sushi, the new addition to O’Shuck’s Bar and Grill. The intense metal mavens sat cross legged in the Tatami Room, a private space partitioned off by paper screen doors. The space once served as a stage for live music. It seems fitting to sit a group of rock gods on such sacred ground.

Yet there’s also something somewhat sad about picturing James Hetfeld daintily dine on tuna sashimi and rice. Shouldn’t he be ripping the flesh off an errant carcass before launching into “Master of Puppets?” Were the changes imparted on the stalwart bar indicative of a break from the rock-and-roll spirit?

Deb and Bruce Corrigan, owners of the bar and instigators of the revamping, admit that they miss the energy evoked by the former digs. However, they also attest to the benefits of adding sushi into the picture. The Corrigans believe that beer and raw fish are perfect bedfellows—it is a combination that parallels the couple’s own blend of Irish and Japanese backgrounds.

On Friday, the wait staff was apparently still used to the more casual bar service than to that of a restaurant, providing long gaps in between service and making one table wait half an hour for their edamame (an appetizer).

The sushi-eating members of the trek, however, found the food quite enjoyable, although some found it hard to put the entire roll in their mouth. “The Japanese are small, but have big mouths,” someone observed. The other food-related obstacle involved the traditional serving of multiple dishes on the same plate, leaving some people wondering which order was theirs.

RED Web Designer Janean Parker offered some advice on eating edamame: “I always make the mistake of eating the pod, and then I’m chewing for half an hour.”


At Cheers to You Jamie thinks about Lou while doing her best impersonation of Heart.  

Cheers to Karaoke
Cheers to You
315 S. Main Street
by Jamie Gadette

After a splendid round of pool at O’ Shucks, our appetite for trivial gaming was sufficiently whet. Deciding that the best way to quell insatiable hunger was to yelp and wail, the group embarked on a quest for karaoke. We marched down Main Street, past my mid- sized wagon, newly outfitted with a pretty pink parking ticket and into Cheers to You.

Being that it was only a little after 9:15, the long hallway of a bar was only sparsely populated. A few barflies clung to the left side of the room, kicking off the weekend in no-nonsense fashion.

RED Art Director Dave Howell, whose shyness and dignity eliminated karaoke, identified “cheap beer” as the bar’s most appealing quality. The place also offers casual pool, where you might hear a conversation like this:

“I forgot who I am.”

“You’re stripes.”


We headed toward the back where a brickhouse of a woman was busy setting up for the evening’s main event in between the booths and the pool tables. She ordered our antsy selves to sit tight while she fine-tuned the mics and warmed up the machines. After what seemed like forever (but was probably only a few minutes), the diva handed over the hallowed book of songs. There were plenty of viable options from which to choose, making it difficult to decide on only a few. Will it be “Thriller” or “Rapper’s Delight”? “Living on a Prayer” or “Back in Black”? Since the selection failed to offer Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” (the greatest guilty pleasure song of all time), I settled on Heart’s “Magic Man.” Chris and Trickey, the other eager beavers, picked Blondie and Black Sabbath tunes as their personal tickets to glory.

The rest of the RED crew was not quite as willing to subject themselves to public humiliation. They humored us through a couple of performances, but after an hour (and after photographer Sarah Morton’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” complete with backup singers) opted to dutifully check out Banana Joe’s.

We, on the other hand, could not tear ourselves away from the action. Now that the bar had filled up, an actual audience had formed—and they wanted a show. After watching a few brave souls struggle through “Margaritaville,” it became obvious that only we could give them what they needed.

Trickey did just that, paying tribute to hair bands with “Hot For Teacher.” He writhed on the floor, shook his fist in the air and grabbed unwitting patrons for impromptu backing vocals. Yes it was a night to remember. And it would not have been possible without the unassuming dive that offers what “classy” joints never can: a chance for the little guy to be a star.

At Banana Joe's, dorky people arrive in limos and then stand in line to get drunk, only to be rejected because they're not hot.  

Banana Joe’s Not Worth Entering
Banana Joe’s
145 W. Pierpont Ave.
by Jeremy Mathews

Talk about bad vibes. A nauseating feeling came over myself and the other more trek oriented BarTrekkers who headed for Banana Joe’s after we lost some of the group to karaoke addiction at Cheers to You. We could tell without entering that this was not our kind of bar.

First of all, there wasn’t only a long line of people waiting to get in and get laid outside, but there was a fast-track line for solo women whom the bouncers found acceptable. A man with a VIP pass asked if he could enter through the line, but alas, he couldn’t.

Now, you might claim that the folks at RED are elitists, but we’re merely snobs and don’t appreciate the act of classifying people into different lines. Second, these people are standing in line to buy overpriced beer and watch TV footage of racecars (the all-you can-eat ribs are only available from 5-6 p.m.), so who would want to be among the clientele? Unless Elvis Costello is playing inside, why stand in line?

And then, as we moved out of the way of an automobile, we had to face the headache-inducing fact that people actually hire limos to take them to overpriced, bloated corporate bars.

“I have a new name for this place,” Art Director Dave Howell said, “Penis Penis Penis.” Leading a behind-schedule trek, I determined that the only way to avoid mutiny was to abandon Banana Joe’s, rescue the rest of my staff from Cheers to You and head to Halo.

Halo offers a flashy indoor/outdoor environment with a healthy supply of local music.  

Do Angels Smile Over Halo?
60 E. 800 South
by Stephanie Geerlings and Jeremy Mathews

Halo has taken the place of the notorious Club Blue. It is a lucky location next to the big, otherwise useless Sear’s parking lot and next to two taco vendors. The layout is one long rectangle, disadvantageous for avoiding people. The claustrophobia—and what Stephen Coles described as “dumb, obnoxious, [too bright] disco lights”—may be avoided in the clean restrooms or the sandy beach backyard. Once, in one half of an hour, Stephanie Geerlings heard more child-like glee from the attitudinized tatoo boys than one could imagine in all of Willy Wonka land.

Yes, you read right, there’s a beach. Since it’s Salt Lake City, there’s not actually any water (which anyone who has been to the city’s namesake will admit is a good thing), save for an inflatable plastic swimming pool with a beer company’s logo on it. And, as Art Director Dave Howell observed, the sandy area actually makes for a “giant ashtray.” But it’s still a beach, with reclining chairs on which one can sip fruity cocktails or do shots.

There are even horseshoes. No ignorance of how to play or score the game can stop you from throwing those things at the wooden pole.

The bar has an impressive love for local musicians. BarTrek night showcased the loud Erosion, but that’s not all that’s served up on the stage.

Another recent night included the first show for Malfeasa and the Manumission. The oddly named duo put on a wonderful show, considering the bar’s sound technician did not find it important to set up a monitor. That show also included another local, General Confusion. The cover band was good, but the singer’s voice drove us back out to the beach.

Oh yeah, and these drinks are cheap. It could be because you are paying for the water involved.


SLC Lost its Virginity at the Cabana Club
31 E. 400 South
by Stephanie Geerlings

There are few bars I frequent and a few I like. Cabana Club touts the birthright of the oldest bar in Salt Lake City and possibly in Utah. I phoned grandma to see. She cannot recall. “If it were, I drank there too.” There is a possible link in that. Back in the day when liquor laws were not created by wee-minded, piddling politicians, it was customary to bring your own booze to the social hall. The bar would provide the ice for a very mighty price.

Cabana Club has gone through some transformation since. It is now the custom to bring your ID to show off to the lovely door person and ice is not the most expensive item on the menu. The most exceptional specials are $1 drafts, $5 long islands and two tacos for $1. They call it college night, but it is not necessarily filled with intelligent people. Shockingly, neither is college.

The bar is relaxed and enjoyable for many types of conversation. Enjoy the secluded low purr of manacled secrecy over cigars or bring boisterous friends and talk soccer. There is a group that meets every Wednesday from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. with high hopes to keep the conversation on topic. They call themselves Barstool Seminary and expose topics from Indian land disputes to the shape of the Brontosaurus. If you are polite, they are inviting.

Cabana always has live music. Some very lovely, chill acoustic music, piano players or more loud local bands. It is an easy atmosphere to slip into. If you stay too long, call 363-5550 for City Cab.

Piper Down has a splendid interior, with nice brick walls, old signs, flags and handsome wood. And don't forget the handsome men, like RED's logo designer, Stephen 'Stuf' Coles.  

Piper Down for a Taste of Olde World Cleanliness
Piper Down
1492 S. State Street
[Voted the BarTrek Staff Selection]
by Bobbi Parry

Nobody on the BarTrek had actually been to Piper Down before, or even heard of it. Somebody's friend had just seen an ad featuring a guy in a kilt holding a bag pipe and we got curious. It was the last bar we hit, and, at 1492 S. State, the furthest from the city center.

The combination of the address and the ad made me wonder. An olde world pub? That meant Scotsmen. Real live Scotsmen? In a dark pub? And maybe some State Street bikers would come in and they'd fight each other. Unfortunately, either my idea of an "olde world pub" was just a teensy bit stereotypical or the owners of Piper Down had fibbed a little in their ad.

Not that I'm complaining. You can spot the pub by the row of flags hanging outside, a theme that continues throughout the place. The nice decor includes moss above all the windows, the walls are brick and there's lots of timber. It's all very clean, well-lit and modern (the building was built in 1914 and recently remodeled) with just about all the bar-y stuff you'd expect—darts, pool, a juke box, a patio. Even the man on stage with the guitar taking requests and playing ’70s pop fit nicely in.

Piper Down is open seven days a week, with live music on weekends, Irish jam session on Mondays and open-mic nights on Wednesdays. The friendly, chill bar—not too crowded—is a good way to end the night (not to mention that it has the cleanest bathrooms on the Trek, a point not to be underrated. Also observe the Gaelic gender-identifying signs.)

We took a seat at a table and ordered drinks. Someone in our group began yelling requests for Paul Simon. Forgoing the hard alcohol in favor of coherence (damn whoever stuck me with the last bar on the tour), I asked photographer Sarah Morton how her drinks was. “It tastes good, so it's probably weak, but I'm starting to feel drunk, so it could be strong,” she said.

At that point I noticed my editor studiously taking notes in his little yellow notebook. I sauntered over to the bar to grab a napkin so I could begin to do the same. While there, I glanced at the full dining menu. It includes fish and chips and shepherd's pie, as well as more common bar fare. Tragically, the kitchen closed at 11 p.m. I retreated to my table to take notes and observe.


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