‘Victim of COVID’: Bourbon House in downtown Salt Lake City has closed its doors

The basement bar’s last day in business was May 13.

After 12 years and many, many plates of totchos, Bourbon House in downtown Salt Lake City has closed its doors for good.

“While our growth has led us to new horizons and the establishment of four other bars, the sale of Bourbon House holds a special place in our hearts,” the business posted on Facebook on May 18. “It’s a humble reminder of our beginnings and memories that we will truly never forget.”

“Here’s to the end of an era and to the continuation of new adventures,” the post continued. The bar’s last day in business was May 13.

Dozens of people commented on the Facebook post, sharing memories of the bar located in the basement of the Walker Center at 19 E. 200 South. One former security employee commented that he met the “love of his life” there.

Jason LeCates, managing partner in The Bourbon Group, said Thursday that they have sold the bar and restaurant to the owner of Prohibition, who plans to open a bar in the space with the same 1920s speakeasy vibe as his Murray establishment. Efforts to reach the owner of Prohibition on Thursday were unsuccessful.

LeCates said Thursday that the decision to close Bourbon House was a long time coming, saying the bar was a “victim of COVID.”

“The bar was very popular, very strong going into COVID,” LeCates said. But when Bourbon House was allowed to reopen, LeCates said they followed restrictions such as social distancing and not allowing dancing, which didn’t go over well with the younger crowd the bar often brought in.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A sign in an elevator for the closed Bourbon House, pictured on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, that used to be in the basement of the Walker Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

“They’d leave and just go somewhere and find someone that was allowing them to party and dance and have a good time,” he said. “And we just kind of lost our momentum as those competitors gained momentum, and we just never, never recovered from it.”

So they decided to put Bourbon House on the market, and had been in talks for about 10 months, and “finally came to an agreement,” he said.

LeCates said it’s OK, though. Bourbon House, which was part of The Bourbon Group along with the bars Whiskey Street, White Horse and Franklin Ave, “doesn’t fit in our portfolios much anymore.”

He’s also now 51, and “I’m not as in tune with how to run a college bar,” he said, adding that he’s more interested in food concepts and high-end cocktails.

When asked what his favorite memory of Bourbon House is, LeCates said it was a screening of the World Cup. It was about 4 p.m. on a Tuesday, and “it was crazy,” he said. “So many people in there cheering, and the team won, and just energy and how packed it was. That was for sure the highlight of Bourbon House, was the World Cup.”

The space’s prominence as a bar predates LeCates’ ownership. In the early 1970s, it opened as D.B. Cooper’s, named for the infamous hijacker, and was in business for around three decades. Later, it existed as Monk’s House of Jazz.