Bar Exam: Finding the right vibe at west downtown Salt Lake City's Mixx
Just after 1 a.m. on a recent Sunday, an energetic, fit man in black-rimmed glasses, tight red pants and a clingy blue-and-white-striped T-shirt asked Mixx co-owner R.B. Edgar for a beer.
Edgar was fueled by coffee from a nearby pot and still sporting a baggy black JÃ¤germeister T-shirt he meant to change before opening at 9 p.m. the day before. He grimaced in sympathy from behind the bar and yelled above the thumping music: "Sorry, we're closed."
Only momentarily dejected, the would-be patron practically skipped back to a large dance floor still throbbing with 20- and 30-something youth and alcohol-infused energy.
On that night, DJ StoneBridge, aka the Swedish Sten Hallstrom, goaded the sobering crowd of Halloween-themed revelers into dancing for one more hour.
Welcome to Mixx, which is technically not a bar or club, but instead a little of both and then some.
"I would call it a small big room," Hallstrom said about Mixx as a venue. "It felt much bigger, and the massive [VIP] area behind the DJ gets the party going and inspires the crowd, too."
When evenings end at Mixx, you can see how the spacious yet ordinary-looking rectangular two-story cinderblock building might have served as a salad-dressing factory or, more recently, as the Trapp Door, a gay-friendly bar.
Now, the mostly red-and-black minimalist interior of the place serves as the backdrop for an entertainment catchall, a venue that's a chameleon of purpose one day or night to the next, depending on who's renting the place.
Mixx opened in February without a Utah liquor license. Instead, Edgar and Mixx co-owner Alan Moss's nightspot is legally defined as a "reception center."
In the context of serving adult beverages, state law requires Moss and Edgar, who also run the popular Area 51 club, to sublease the Mixx building to third parties for banquets or "event functions" before alcohol can be sold there.
The three-page state license for reception-center owners outlines rules such as the prohibition of lewd attire or behavior "contrary to public welfare and morals" on the part of Mixx's employees or entertainers.
The binding agreement says nothing about several scantily costumed women who paid to get in and subsequently chose, as they did during DJ StoneBridge's set, to dance with each other in ways their grandmothers probably never did.
For marketing purposes, Edgar and Moss label the joint as "recreation center" on the Mixx Facebook page.
"We wanted a nightclub license," Edgar said, and are hoping to get in line when more licenses are available.
In the meantime, Utah's lawmakers allow for one reception-center license per 56,313 residents, which with over 2.8 million people here in the Beehive State adds up to roughly 50 licenses. Edgar and Moss landed just such a license.
"So far we've done really well with it," Edgar said about making Mixx a "good fit" within the confines of the law.
So, one night it could be a promoter's dance club, where the lights are colorful and moody, spirits flow and the music is so loud it rattles Mixx's four chandeliers, shakes pool balls at the tables in back and causes bottles and glasses to float across the DJ's table.
The DJ, aka Hallstrom, rates Mixx high among other local clubs he has played, including the larger The Depot. "Mixx is more intimate, and it was easier to get the crowd going at this party. I would love to play there again."
Vocalist Krista Richards, who sang at the Halloween party backed by StoneBridge's music, also liked the venue's layout and those chandeliers. "It seemed to me no matter where you were in the club you could see the stage."
Dance club one night, and the next day Mixx might be brightly lit and filled with family and friends celebrating in a comparatively sedate manner during a Latina teen's quinceaÃ±era.
If Mixx were a glass slipper, it might fit many feet, like those of GreenSmartLiving's owner Adrian Chiaramonte, who booked the club for a StoneBridge show. He liked the club's "great underground vibe, with a nice layout that's good for the dancing crowd," he said, adding that Mixx's drinks are "super well priced."
Edgar said everyone under the sun is discovering Mixx, including a burner group that hosts a band called Jellyfish and, on another night, a group of sketch artists who use live models dressed in cabaret outfits.
"It's kind of its own unique thing, depending on who is renting it out and what their vision is," Edgar said. "There are so many different people out there."
A nightlife venue with many moods
Mixx, which is defined by law as a "reception center," is at 615 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City.
More • During daytime hours, it might cost as little as $500 to lease the building. The work of Mixx's chef is available for an additional fee.