An iconic Utah gay bar is closed again — and has surrendered its liquor license

The bar, once a center of Utah’s LGBTQ+ community, has dealt with ownership drama in the last two years.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Sun Trapp gay bar and dance club in Salt Lake City, pictured on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, surrendered its liquor license on Monday, March 18, 2024.

The Sun Trapp, an iconic and historic Salt Lake City gay bar, has surrendered its liquor license.

The bar at 102 S. 600 West — which has seemed to be on the brink of closure for the past two years — gave up its license Monday, according to a spokesperson with the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services (DABS).

The bar closed temporarily on Jan. 7 due to a plumbing issue, according to an Instagram post. It reopened the next day but shut down again on Jan. 18, and has been closed ever since, QSaltLake reported. The bar — known for its mirrored cowboy boot in the place of a disco ball — hasn’t posted on social media since Jan. 9.

DABS spokesperson Michelle Schmitt told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday that the department was “beginning the process of looking into whether The Sun Trapp was operating under their statutory obligations,” including whether the bar had been closed for too long to keep their liquor license.

But while the department was just beginning that process, The Sun Trapp voluntarily gave up its license, rendering the investigation moot, Schmitt said.

Phone calls made to The Sun Trapp on Tuesday went unanswered.

At the liquor commission’s meeting in February, the commission granted 10 liquor licenses, leaving none to give out at its next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, March 28. But because The Sun Trapp has surrendered its license, that means at least one bar license will be available to give out at this month’s meeting.

It’s unclear whether the bar is officially closed. According to Utah business records, The Sun Trapp’s business license was still active as of March 8. Schmitt said The Sun Trapp could apply for another liquor license down the line, but it would have to go through the typical application process again.

According to court records, the Utah Tax Commission filed three tax liens on Feb. 19 against FChugg, the company that owns The Sun Trapp, totaling $10,161.60.

This isn’t the first prolonged closure of the bar. In 2022, it was closed for around six weeks, because of a lawsuit between its then-owners. The closure left members of the LGBTQ community and former employees of the bar alike feeling like they were without a safe space.

Many community members have direct ties to the bar. Mark Sanchez, who ran the bar’s social media, said that when he came out, The Sun Trapp was the first gay bar he visited. For Utah transplants Amy Tanner, a bartender, and Rick Reger, who previously did does social media for the bar, The Sun Trapp is a crucial part of their Utah identity.

Since then, two other LGBTQ-focused bars have opened — Club Verse, launched by former owners of The Sun Trapp, and a new gay sports bar, The Locker Room — to join a roster of Salt Lake City gay bars that includes Club Try-Angles, Milk+ and Why Kiki.

Sean Rawlings, one of the co-owners of The Locker Room, was a patron at The Sun Trapp. In 2022, he told The Tribune, “the biggest fear is if The Sun Trapp closes, or goes under new management and changes from what it was, progress in our community is going to be halted,” he said.

Jasmine, another Sun Trapp patron who only goes by her first name, said in 2022 that there is one place in Utah where people in the LGBTQ+ community, like herself, feel completely safe to be themselves, at the bar in question.

“When you’re a queer person, there’s always the question, ‘Am I safe expressing my queerness?’,” Jasmine said. The Sun Trapp, she said, “is one of the places where you don’t have to ask that question because you can be you, 110%, and everybody loves and accepts you. … I don’t know of another place like that in Utah.”

The Sun Trapp, formerly known as The Sun, is widely acknowledged as the first gay bar in Utah, opened in 1973 by Joe Redburn. Local LGBTQ historian Ben Williams noted that this was one of the first significant places for Salt Lake City’s small LGBTQ community in the ‘70s.

The bar became an early version of a community gathering space, Williams said. Babs Delay, a real estate broker and LGBTQ activist, said the first version of the Utah Pride Center started at The Sun Trapp. Delay also told The Tribune that back then, the community would raise money in the bar to aid people with rent or medical bills.

Redburn, who died in 2020 at a homeless shelter at age 82, also started the first version of the Utah Pride Festival, a kegger in 1975, according to activist Nikki Boyer.

In 2022, DJ Justin Hollister noted that though The Sun Trapp’s location is significant, the community is not tied to a specific place. “It’s not about us, it’s really about [the] people,” Hollister said.