Why there are no bars in Rose Park or Fairpark — and why that could finally change

“We literally have nothing as far as a nice place to grab cocktails or a beer that’s close,” says one resident.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The main gate to the Utah State Fairpark is shown Monday, May 23, 2022.

If a resident of Rose Park or Fairpark wants to go to a bar that’s within their neighborhood boundaries, there just aren’t any options.

These Salt Lake City west-side neighborhoods have bars just outside their boundaries, and a few restaurants that offer alcoholic beverages, but no true bars close to where people live.

For many residents, that’s a problem.

“We don’t get nice things here,” said Kira Ipsen, who lives in Rose Park. “There’s still very much an east/west divide. ... I think it’d be nice to have options over here. We literally have nothing as far as a nice place to grab cocktails or a beer that’s close.”

Why? The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services says it isn’t due to a shortage of liquor licenses, of which the state now has 11 available as of Oct. 30. There are also two winter seasonal bar licenses available.

“The commission has not been asked to consider approving a bar license for that area,” DABS spokesperson Michelle Schmitt said via email. “... It suggests that lack of full-service bars in the area is not due to issues with the process of obtaining a bar license.”

Some residents blame perceptions that Rose Park and Fairpark are troubled socioeconomically and have issues with crime.

City leaders say it’s a deeper issue tied to the area’s history of redlining, even though racist housing practices that kept people of color in areas deemed “hazardous” were banned in 1968. They also point to a lack of amenities overall in Fairpark and Rose Park, as well as Poplar Grove and Glendale farther south.

But with the 100-acre site of Rocky Mountain Power’s future headquarters on North Temple now also the preferred location of a future baseball stadium, the Folsom Trail corridor moving toward development, and the Utah State Fairpark’s master plan including some permanent amenities, at least one bar could be in Rose Park or Fairpark’s future.

‘No place to hang out’

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Handle Bar in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.

There are a few bars that are at least close to Rose Park and Fairpark.

The Garten Cider House & Bar, at Mountain West Cider, is located one block outside of Fairpark boundaries, across Interstate 15. Handlebar is located about three blocks outside of Fairpark boundaries, also across the freeway. Both bars are in the Marmalade neighborhood.

Kennedy’s Cabaret recently opened just outside the Fairpark and Rose Park boundaries at 412 W. 600 North. Redwood Lounge, at 502 S. Redwood Road, is relatively close to Fairpark, but it’s located in Poplar Grove.

As for restaurants that serve alcohol, you can always get a drink at Red Iguana or Red Iguana 2 to go with your cochinita pibil or enchiladas. And the event venue Sugar Space — which is now a part of Fairpark ever since the neighborhood’s boundaries were expanded two blocks south this spring — opened a cafe with a liquor license this year. You just have to order food to go with your drink. And Chubby’s Mexican Restaurant in Rose Park serves beer only.

But as for a hangout that people can walk or bike to and enjoy a drink with their neighbors, without the requirement of ordering food? There’s nothing.

Rose Park also lacks permanent coffee shops — right now, its only option for good coffee is the Buzzed Coffee Truck, which usually parks at 960 W. 1000 North. Fairpark, however, is home to Mestizo Coffeehouse and will soon have Culture Coffee.

Residents of Rose Park are feeling this scarcity of “third spaces” — places that aren’t home or work where people can engage in what a writer for The Atlantic called “serendipitous, productivity-free conversation.”

“I would like a bar or brewery, but I would love a coffee shop,” said Lauren Kammer, who lives in Rose Park. “We have the coffee truck, but no place to hang out with your laptop or a book. But bars are nice for this in the off-hours too, so I would be pretty happy to get one.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Chubby's in Rose Park, photographed on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, is one of the restaurants in the area that serves beer.

A redlined history

Alejandro Puy, Salt Lake City Council member for District 2 — which includes Fairpark, Poplar Grove and Glendale — said the west side used to have so many businesses that residents didn’t have to leave to access amenities.

Establishments such as bowling alleys, pharmacies and bodegas “made our community more vibrant” and walkable, Puy said, but zoning changes through the years pushed many of those businesses to close.

Now, this part of town lacks many of the amenities that people need, he said.

Victoria Petro, City Council member for District 1 — which includes Fairpark, Jordan Meadows, Rose Park and Westpointe — said, “I’m really tired of going to other districts, and spending my tax increments there, just so I can have a meal with my family or grab a drink.”

“Being able to actually live, work and play in the place where you live is something not accessible to my constituents,” she continued.

Historically, parts of Rose Park, Fairpark, Poplar Grove and Glendale were all deemed “hazardous” on redlined maps, which Petro said has created a “stigma” around these areas.

Puy said that has had a “huge effect” on the communities in his district. “Some of the last places where the city hooked up sewage services was the west side,” he said. “In many ways, my community has been seen as the last place to do good things or the last place that you need to focus on.”

“Redlining certainly plays a part in the downturn of a community, and we are seeing it today,” Puy said. “But we have the focus now to look ahead and bring back those amenities we deserve.”

Trying to overcome the aftereffects of redlining is “really hard,” said Nick Norris, director of the Salt Lake City Planning Division, “but it’s still the right thing to do.”

“And the trick is trying to do it in ways that promote those businesses and promote walkability without displacing the people who are the most vulnerable to be displaced, whether they’re people of certain races or ethnicities or lower-income households or individuals,” Norris continued.

Bars that almost happened

Sean Neves — a Fairpark native and co-owner and founder of ACME Bar Company, Bar Nohm and Water Witch — has wanted to bring a bar to the Fairpark neighborhood for a long time.

In 2020, it almost happened. Together with business partner and co-owner Scott Gardner, Neves had plans to open a distillery, restaurant and bar at 23 N. 900 West, between North and South Temple, in what was then the Euclid/Poplar Grove neighborhood but is now part of Fairpark. They were ready to close the deal that March.

“And then coronavirus happened and it sort of blew the deal up,” Neves said.

Instead of putting everything they had into one project that would take years to complete, Neves and Gardner decided to “cut our losses, dissolve that partnership and move forward with our downtown-centric and Sugar House projects,” Neves said.

The fruits of those labors are ACME Bar Company — which will transform into its festive Seasons Drinking concept on Black Friday — and Bar Nohm, a Japanese-inspired izakaya. The space at 23 N. 900 West became a ghost kitchen called Salt Lake City Eats.

Grid City Beer Works is a brewpub and brewery that very nearly broke ground in what was known then as the Euclid neighborhood. It ended up opening on 2100 South, across the street from a Home Depot.

Founder Justin Belliveau said via email that they decided constructing a new building on the property they acquired on 800 West would take too long and be too expensive.

Neves said one barrier to opening more bars along North Temple is that viable properties are getting knocked down and turned into apartments. The city needs more housing, he acknowledged, but “the North Temple corridor has a high risk of becoming similar to the 4th South corridor,” he added, with “giant mono blocks of apartments.”

Bars that could happen

According to Norris, all of the commercially zoned land in Rose Park and Fairpark would allow a bar to be sited under conditional use, but there is not a lot of commercial zoning in the area except along North Temple.

There are some commercial nodes in the two neighborhoods that could support a bar, including 1300 West and 500 North in Fairpark (the area where All Chay is located); and in Rose Park around 900 West and 1000 North, Redwood Road and 700 North, 1000 North and 1400 West, and just north and east of the Smith’s grocery store.

Along North Temple in Fairpark, the zoning is already in place to allow bars under permitted use, Norris said.

Nigel Swaby, chairman of the Fairpark Community Council, said North Temple is due for a sports bar, with many single people moving into the new apartments and the possibility of a new Major League Baseball field coming to the neighborhood. “There’s going to be a drive for it, there’s going to be demand,” he said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) City Creek daylighting project would add water and gathering amenities to Folsom Trail, pictured on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, near downtown Salt Lake City, which connects with the Jordan River Parkway Trail.

The Folsom Trail area between 900 West and 1000 West is ready for a transformation as well, Swaby said, and “could become a very vibrant sort of nightlife area, much like the 9th and 9th area on the east side of Salt Lake.”

Swaby said crime and homeless encampments are an issue, however. On the Fourth of July, he wanted to take his daughter to see the fireworks at The Gateway, he said. They considered taking the Folsom Trail, but there was a large encampment on it, “and I didn’t want to take my 9-year-old on that,” he said. So they ended up taking TRAX instead.

“If you have businesses that develop there, you don’t want to have that kind of attitude that people don’t want to go by you on foot,” Swaby said. “We have to get that cleaned up.”

Larry Mullenax, executive director of the Utah State Fair Corporation, which manages the Utah State Fairpark, said they are currently trying to “better understand” how the $200 million Fairpark master plan fits into all the new development in the area and haven’t broken any ground yet.

But it has “always been part of the plan to have a really nice social gathering spot, where people could come after a long day of work and enjoy some food and have an opportunity to have an adult beverage,” Mullenax said.

Wherever a new bar, brewery, distillery or restaurant ends up in Fairpark or Rose Park, Puy said he wants residents to know their wishes are heard.

Much of the west side’s struggles are “decades long, and maybe even several generations long,” Puy said. “I want to make sure that our neighbors know that good things are happening.”