If you ask Tony Marino to list all of the Salt Lake City bars where he’s worked—well, it’s probably easier to just have him tell you the bars where he hasn’t worked. “I never worked at Bar X,” Tony says. “I sort of missed the craft cocktail thing. I started tending bar in 1997 so I’m old. I got really good at making shots and party drinks. ”
These days Tony is the tap room manager at Level Crossing but his career reads like a genealogy chart of Salt Lake watering holes. He started at TGIFridays (remember those?) at age 23. Then Porter Rockwells, a State Street bar that became Capones and then Pinky’s strip club. He helped Dave Morris build Piper Down after Shaggy’s Living Room (a short-lived experiment that involved broken video games and D.I. furniture) folded at the 200 South spot that would become the Library, then The Hotel and now is Lake Effect, which seems built to last. Ego’s for a bit then Trolley Wing Company, where he served the now-owner of TWC, Jess Wilkerson, as a regular before Wilkerson bought the joint. Then it was Bocci, Gastronomy’s long-gone Italian restaurant on Pierpont Avenue (“I feel like everyone worked for Gastronomy at some point,” he says.) Then onto Green Street in its hopping heyday.
“In the early 2000s you were either a Port O’ Call guy or a Green Street guy,” he says. “Those were the two hot spots. That was back in the day when people would line up to get into Green Street. We’d have a line of 100 people waiting to get in at 12:40 a.m. on a Saturday. I’d have to tell my door guys to stop letting people in. I mean ‘come on man, last call is in 20 minutes, what are you thinking?’”
And the list keeps going, The Jackalope, the Wood Shed, Bar Named Sue on Highland. Lucky 13, then Dick ’n’ Dixies, one of his longest stints. He’s worked at Bourbon House three times, Whiskey Street and White Horse, his last gig was at The Ruin and now he’s on to Level Crossing. So, if there’s one person in this town that could answer the question, “what makes a great bar?” it’s Tony Marino.
“It’s the people, especially the regulars who make a bar great and that’s a reflection of how the staff treats them and how they treat the staff,” Tony says. “A good bartender knows 85 percent of everyone in that bar when they’re working and she knows what they’re having. That’s one of these intangible things that you can’t fake. I’d hire bartenders who know how to smile over some pretentious mixologist any day. I can teach someone how to make a drink. I can’t teach someone how to be nice and friendly.”
See all of our bar and nightlife coverage here.