The cancellation of live events during the coronavirus pandemic came as a huge blow to Soundwell. But it inspired the concert venue’s owners, Vaughn Carrick and Bryan Borreson, to launch The Ivy, a new downtown Salt Lake City restaurant, and Varley, its sister bar.
The restaurant and bar are located in the former Caffe Molise/BTG Wine Bar space at 55 W. 100 South. The owners have leased Salt Lake City’s Dinwoody Park — which is adjacent to the building — to serve as the restaurant’s patio.
The outdoor dining space, considered one of the best in Utah’s capital, is expected to open this spring.
Both spaces have been vacant since October 2018, when Caffe Molise and BTG moved into the historic Eagle Building on the corner of 400 South and West Temple. The establishments left to make way for a new development that never materialized.
For Carrick and Borreson, who have been in the live music and entertainment business for more than a decade, owning a restaurant and bar had been in a future goal. But the pandemic prompted them to take it on earlier than expected.
“When COVID shuttered anything having to do with live music,” Carrick said, “we had time on our hands.”
He said they spent several months remodeling the spaces, and now “they look completely different.”
The project wasn’t without trouble. It took Carrick and Borreson 15 months to get the Varley bar license from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Utah is currently experiencing a shortage of bar licenses, which are doled out based on population. State law allows one bar for every 10,200 people. Some months there is one available permit to give — other times there are none.
The next bar license will be available in April, and currently nine businesses are on the waitlist.
The owners of Varley had been at the top of the waitlist for several months, but were passed over several times before landing the license in late December.
“It was like [the film] ‘Groundhog Day,’” Carrick said. “You get ready to fire things up with staffing and marketing and then you don’t get it and have to relive it the next month.”