A decade-old drama involving Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square, a century-old rail car and a beer bar that serves chicken wings finally got its happy ending.
“Things have worked out,” said Jess Wilkerson, who reopened Trolley Wing Co. on Tuesday inside the historic rail car that gave the business its name.
Wilkerson and his business partner, Jeff Krie, chose Nov. 12 for the unveiling since that’s the date in 2001 that Trolley Wing Co. originally opened under the Trolley Square water tower on 700 East between 500 South and 600 South.
In 2010, about nine months after Wilkerson bought the business, though, Trolley Wing Co. was evicted by the mall’s previous owner. The historic rail car was moved to the nearby parking lot and wrapped in plastic to make way for a multimillion-dollar renovation.
Wilkerson carried on. He partnered with Krie and opened a Trolley Wing Co. in Sugar House and then Midvale. But, in the back of his mind, he always wanted to reopen in the namesake trolley.
Last October, SK Hart Properties — which had acquired Trolley Square — paved the way, moving the streetcar to a courtyard between the Pottery Barn and We Olive stores. Within a week of the move, Wilkerson had contacted SK Hart about signing a lease to reopen the wing spot.
Old-time customers may not recognize the car today. The exterior has been given several coats of creme-colored paint — covering the original brick red color. Inside there is a new 16-seat bar. And a large walk-in cooler has been installed at the front of the trolley — no more warm beer like the good-old days, joked Wilkerson.
The restaurant has a limited menu, offering five wing flavors. It also accepts only cash — but there is an ATM in the corner for customers who need it.
The Trolley Wing Co. project took one last hit in October, when the owners were unable to get a bar license from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control — which has run out of bar permits for 2019.
Undeterred, Wilkerson and Krie opened Tuesday as a beer-only tavern and are in the process of buying the bar license currently held by the owner of Salt Lake City’s Mixed Emotions Club. That should be finalized later this month, allowing it to serve beer, wine and cocktails.
“It was just one more obstacle that the trolley car has been through,” said Wilkerson. “But now the story has been completed.”
Trolley Wing is back on track.