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Partyer's Guide to Utah


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It’s more than possible to catch a buzz in the Beehive State.

When the world comes to Utah for the Olympics, it will discover what so many skiers already know: Despite their sober reputation, Salt Lake and Park City are actually great places to party. Salt Lake City remains the worldwide headquarters of Mormonism, but that doesn’t mean it’s dull. The Utah capital has all the diverse nightspots you’d expect to find in a city of a million people. Here’s a mere sampling of the fun to be had.

Breweries and Brew Pubs

Utah beer is a tad weak in alcohol content, but it tastes great. Here are some of the best places to drink it: Red Rock Brewing Company (254 South 200 West), Squatters (147 West Broadway), and The Uinta Brewery (389 West 1700 South), which gives tours that end with free sampling.

Martinis and Manhattans
If you’d rather drink something a bit more sophisticated than beer, check out the chic Club Bambara (202 South Main Street).

Want something real? Check out one of Salt Lake’s classic dives. The Twilite Lounge (347 East 200 South) attracts a mix of grad students, teachers, and gray-haired barroom intellectuals. Burt’s Tiki Lounge (726 South State Street) is Salt Lake City’s most kitschy live-music bar.

Dance and Live Music
Here are the best spots to shake it loose. Club Axis (108 South 500 West) is one of the wildest clubs this side of the Hudson; the Dead Goat Saloon (165 South West Temple) is one of the coolest spots for live blues this side of the Delta. Club Manhattan (5 East 400 South) is pure old-school lounge — Naugahyde banquettes, cigarette girls, and a well-waxed dance floor — where nights range from jazz to hip-hop to electronica. The Zephyr Club (301 South West Temple) gets funk, punk, and other live bands nightly.

Underground Dance
Situated on a dead-end cul-de-sac in a rundown warehouse section of town, Kilby Court (741 South 330 West) is two old auto-garage buildings and a courtyard surrounded by chain-link fence. Sit around the barrel fire and tiki torches in the courtyard, and you’ll feel you’re in a nightclub Sanford and Son would’ve opened.

Singles Scene
Hunting for your soul (or ski) mate? Check out Or get personal at Port O’ Call Social Club (78 West 400 South), Green Street Social Club (602 East 500 South), or Murphy’s Bar and Grill (160 South Main Street).

Goth Scene
If you want to follow your sunny day on the slopes with a night on the dark side, visit or go to Club @ (740 South 300 West) or Area 51 (451 South 400 West).

With its mining-town roots, Victorian architecture, and bawdy history, Park City more closely resembles Aspen or Telluride than Ogden or Provo.

At the top of Main Street, the Wasatch Brew Pub (250 Main Street) offers 10 varieties of its own beer on tap — including the local favorite, Polygamist Porter.

Although you won’t find the same (low) level dives in Park City that you’ll find in Salt Lake, there are several low-key bars where you can belly up in jeans and Sorels. The No Name Saloon (447 Main Street) is filled with memorabilia and has a classic bar and old shuffleboard game that miraculously gets easier to play as your bar tab grows. O Shucks (427 Main Street) is a basement bar where you can throw peanut shells on the floor and nobody will yell at you. The Phat Tire Saloon (438 Main Street) is known as Park City’s biker bar.

J. B. Mulligan’s Club and Pub (804 Main Street) is the one of the few Irish bars remaining in Park City, which is sad considering all the Irish who dug and drank in this area.

Thanks to the transplants and tourists Park City draws, the town supports the kind of upscale, refined hangouts you don’t find east of L.A. and San Francisco or west of Manhatttan. Mother Urban’s Ratskellar (625 Main Street) sits at the junction of “old” and “new” Main streets, which is fitting because this new bar is bringing back old jazz sounds amid Park City memorabilia. Renee’s Bar and Café (136 Heber Avenue) is a no-smoking, martini and wine affair that’s the new favorite among longtime locals with good jobs and sophisticated palates who have progressed past swill-your-face-off nights.

Dance and Live Music
The cornerstone of Park City’s nightlife, Cisero’s Nightclub (306 Main Street) is an old-school establishment with brass rails and a burnished wood bar. Harry O’s (427 Main Street; concert hotline, 435-615-7561) has the biggest dance floor in the state. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, there can be 1,000 people inside and another 100 in line. Club Creation (268 Main Street) is a place for the X set. Open until four or five in the morning, Creation is the best underground techno and electronica club in the state.

For the full scoop on Utah, check out Kerig’s book, Utah Underground: A Guide to Real Fun, a new publication from Mountain Sports Press. Info: 303-448-7600.

Utah’s Liquor Laws

Often maligned as inane or overly complicated, the rules are simple enough — at least for anyone of legal drinking age.

Restaurants can sell a full complement of liquor, wine, and both 3.2 and stronger beer to anyone over 21 who is also eating there. Places where people go to drink and socialize (but not eat) are called private clubs, which can only admit “members” and their “guests.” Becoming a member means paying for an annual membership ($15-$24) or buying a two-week temporary membership (usually $5). With either type of membership, you can bring five guests in with you. Or you can get into a private club by becoming a guest, which means asking to be sponsored by anyone who happens to be going in. Don’t be shy, everyone does it. Establishments with “tavern” liquor licenses sell only 3.2 beer. No one under 21 is allowed.

How much of a damper does all this put on the scene? In 2000 nearly four million gallons of wine, whiskey, and spirits were consumed in Utah. “You can walk into a hundred restaurants and drink any damn thing you want,” says Twilite Lounge owner Bob Cairo. “If you want to come to a club like mine, you can also drink anything you like. It’s just gonna cost you a few bucks. If you can’t afford that, maybe you shouldn’t be spending money on booze.”