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
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
By day, I drive by the dowdy old Shubrick
that the federal government heaped on Salt
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.