September 29, 2016

Bar-X Reopens

By Richard Markosian

Changes to historic dive bar represent greater changes to demographics of Salt Lake.

Bar X has always been recognized as one of Salt Lake City’s most historic blue collar dive bars. Its origins date  back to 1933—a time when drinking was an activity exclusively for men. Women weren’t allowed in Bar X until 1986.

Over the years the seedy feel of the bar seemed to replace the authentic hard working blue collar feel. One patron described it as a place where “you had to be careful who you sat next to.” The same former patron believed drug users frequented the bar.

The owner of the building decided not to renew the lease last July and close the building without comment about his plans.

Apparently the plan was to find new tenants who would use the space to attract a different customer base.

The new owners are actor Ty Berrell and David Barnard, who is the owner of the Lolla Bella and Chalk Garden. Barnard has retained the original name.

Former owner Charmayne Clingman feels she has been ousted and believes Bar X’s former patrons will not be welcome in the new bar.  She feels the new owners registered the name in an under-handed manner. Barnard says this is false, the reason he is the new owner of Bar X is because Clingman never owned Bar X. She was only operating the bar and leasing it from the building owner, whose father started the bar. The big changes in Bar X and the immediate success demonstrate a change in the demographics of Salt Lake City.

Since the revitalization of Salt Lake City has taken root,  true urbanite hipsters are replacing much of the former blue collar factory workers of Salt Lake. Bars are realizing that a greater profit margin can be realized if they cater to the new urbanite crowd by offering a greater selection of traditional cocktails instead of cheap beer.

In 2010 Andy’s “dive bar” was bought, renovated and replaced with Dick and Dixies, which caters to a much more to hipsters. Andy’s Bar was full of older men who would order $3.00 mini pitchers and stay four hours.  Dick and Dixies on 300 South and 500 East is now very popular on weekends with mostly a hip young crowd.

Barnard added, “The building owners saw the bar go downhill and they were seeking a new tenant. [the Landlord] appreciated our vision for the bar. We were willing to invest a lot of money into the bar and restore its original character.” Barnard points out that many of his customers are former patrons of Bar X before it went downhill. “I still believe Bar X is a dive bar, because for me ‘dive bar’ means authentic,” said Barnard.

Trying a $9 wedding fruit punch, which contained ginger beer, mint and whiskey, was almost like sitting in a high-end juice bar. Barnard says the prep work involved requires bar tenders to come in early in the morning to make homemade grenadine and produce all fresh juices.

The new Bar X crowd is much more stylish, there are no funky smells, but Barnard still says Bar X is a ‘dive bar’.