When Sam Miller and Mikey Edwards came to Salt Lake a few years back, they had a vision for a new kind of nightlife experience. Using their combined experience working in tiki bars in San Francisco and Paris, the pair set out to enlighten Utah drinkers of their vanilla ways. Of course, we weren’t completely blind to the ways of tiki cocktails, but our notions of overly-sweet libations with Red Dye 40 were in dire need of an update. Miller and Edwards began hosting an educational series at Caputo’s called “Island Time,” which invited guests to learn tiki recipes and history. Apart from their classes, the duo could also be found slinging Frozen Daiquiris and Mai Tais at Water Witch. Sipping their tropical creations, the city embraced an island state of mind with open arms—but we wanted more.
In October of 2022, Miller and Edwards jumped at the chance to purchase the former Campfire Lounge in Sugar House. Partnering up with Water Witch’s Sean Neves and Scott Gardner, the group’s tropical vision began to take shape. “When we saw the space, we knew it was a cool funky building with good bones,” Miller recalls. “If you squint, you would see that it could be an immersive space that just needed some love and TLC.” With the holidays fast-approaching, the team sprung into action and wrapped the space head-to-toe in Christmas lights and ordered as much rum as their shelves would hold. The sudden flurry of activity caught a lot of attention, and Utahns’ curiosity peaked as the rundown watering hole turned into a full-blown Christmas fantasy. “Season’s Drinkings” was here. “I think it was way more successful than any of us imagined it would be,” says Miller. “We opened the doors with 100 people in line and they kept coming non-stop.”
“Season’s Drinkings” could not have been a better introduction for ACME, but what was next? Following their holiday takeover, Miller and Edwards once again converted the space into an ephemeral concept called Suckerfish. Featuring sea creature decor, tropical sips and a small selection of bites by Nohm’s chef David Chon, the bar continued to satiate our growing penchant for tiki. At its core, Miller wants ACME to be a neighborhood tiki bar that gives guests an immersive experience. “The main ethos of Tiki is escapism, transporting you to another place and helping you forget what’s going on in the real world.” The ACME group extends that same promise of escapism to industry members, who are invited to step outside of their normal day-to-day routine and host takeovers at ACME. “Bartender exchanges were really something I wanted to bring to Salt Lake to elevate the bar culture here,” Miller explains.
ACME will remain an escapist’s paradise, but bargoers will soon have to bid adieu to the incandescent decor and lingering remnants of log cabin guise. A major renovation will take place sometime this summer or early fall, and the owners have tall design orders. Starting with the 2,500 square foot patio, the ACME group wants to immerse guests in a modern tiki lounge. “We’re going to build each area into its own feeling and vibe,” Miller explains. “Entering the main bar will be our big tropical escape with palapa thatched roofs, fog machines, fire shows—sensory overload.” In the bar’s side room, guests will be transported to a darker, more demonic side of island life. “Think, ‘catacombs in France.’” Another important design detail, the bar won’t be relying on appropriated pacific islander culture to get the message of tiki across. “You don’t need to display carvings of a Polynesian or Maori deity to make it a tiki bar,” Edwards adds. “We want to bring Tiki into the modern lens and focus on the main ethos of Tiki—escapism.”
The renovation won’t be a small feat, but out of the ashes will no-doubt rise a welcome piece of island paradise.
IF YOU GO…
837 E. 2100 South, SLC
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