“In the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, people used to go to hotels for entertainment. There were dining clubs and dances with live bands in the ballroom,” says Jared Steele, General Manager of Salt Lake’s AC Hotel. Sometime around the ‘70s, that, like most everything else in American culture, changed.
For hotels, that was a move away from wooing locals into their space for entertainment and a move towards corporate events. But here in Salt Lake, there are two very different hotels turning that business model on its head.
“I know we’re here at the Marriott and they have fancy tablecloths and whatnot, but we’re going to get so loud we’re going to make the people upstairs wonder what we’re doing down here,” said Jason Cozmo on a recent Saturday night at what, even he admitted, was an unexpected venue for his drag show.
Chef Jason Talcott has been remaking the image of the Marriott following a spring 2018 re-do by bringing locals into its Wakara Bar with live music, trivia nights, liquor education events and, yes, even drag queens (including a family-friendly drag brunch).
Nestled in Research Park, Talcott notes that his hotel bar is the only watering hole on the west bench of the city—and the closest for employees at the U and the surrounding areas. “We’re just trying to get people engaged,” he says, noting that Geeks Who Drink trivia has been a huge hit with the Research Park crowd. “So far,” he admits, “It’s working.”
Of course, guests at the hotel have to be on board, too. “They love it,” Talcott says. “They’re used to traveling and they get to their hotel and there’s nothing going on. They come here and they don’t even have to leave the hotel to get a craft cocktail and live music.”
480 Wakara Way, SLC, 385-722-9600,
A study in contrast, the AC Hotel shares a city block with some of the most popular bars in Salt Lake. But, general manager Jared Steele says there’s no competition. “We’re a different story than those places. People can come here and work all afternoon and then stay through the night and transition on the way with us.”
The AC hosts paint nights, education events and jazz jam nights with local musician David Halliday, “They come and set up and the band jams for a bit and other guys jump in. It’s been a lot of fun,” says Steele.
For the more professional-types, Steele says he’s working with a local tailor and photographers to create an event at which patrons will get fitted for suits or alterations and get headshots at the same time.
And for the religious majority here in Utah, Steele says they’re doing mock-tail classes and events. Says Steele, “We’re taking some of the culture out and saying ‘here are some fun things to do, if you drink, great, and if you don’t drink, you’ll still like it here.’”
“Revenue generation isn’t the goal,” he says. “We want people to know this is a place they can spend their evenings.”
225 W. 200 South, SLC, 385- 722-9600 achotels.marriott.com
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