Since 1991, Historic 25th Street in Ogden has housed one of the country’s coolest little nightclubs. The City Club offers the unique experience of grabbing a cocktail with friends while surrounded by endless Beatles memorabilia. The City Club is a Beatles museum valued at $1 million, featuring a mix of fan art and original artwork purchased by the owners, Heidi Harwood and Bill Parker, with many items donated by fans and patrons of the business.
The aesthetic’s originality is worth the drive alone, but the real magic comes from the family-style atmosphere. If there’s one thing Heidi Hardwood knows how to do, it’s making anyone feel welcome that walks through her doors. Initially, she thought catering was where she’d make her mark on the world but quickly learned she wanted people to come to her. They’ve been coming through her doors for nearly 30 years, but over the last year, keeping those doors open has been a challenge she never anticipated.
To know Heidi is to know a true leader with unshakable strength, never rattled from her foundation. Until COVID. “I’d never cried in front of my staff, not once,” she says. As a former employee of hers, I can attest to this—Heidi is almost scary strong. “It was the March 18, 2020, when we closed completely for six weeks. As I gathered my staff from both The City Club and Brewskis [another club she owns], I couldn’t contain myself; I could not believe where we were. I cried as I told them we had to close,” she recalls, the emotion dripping from her voice while recounting the painful memory.
This isn’t the first time she’s faced a business closing, yet nothing jeopardized her future as a business owner like this pandemic has. However, Heidi isn’t one to lay down and let hardships hold the reins. “To be successful in the bar business, you have to be a rule follower, and that’s what we’ve always done. Here’s the thing: following the rules of the bar business helped us slide right into COVID rules. It’s just another layer. I had a lot of the pieces in place; I just had to modify.”
While her businesses stayed closed, Heidi got to work. “We closed tearfully, but we got busy. We cleaned, painted and got in every nook and cranny.” She enlisted staff in improvement projects and asked them not to leave as she applied for a PPP loan. Initially, Heidi and Bill were able to pay their staff through two pay periods before receiving help, and they were scared. During that time, she took notes about the way the pandemic was affecting her: “Being brave and going into business for ourselves will never feel the same. Those of us who followed our own paths to the American Dream have ended up in a nightmare … Most of us will be out of business when and if real help arrives. What a tragedy for those of us who employ 47% of the working population.”
Luckily for Heidi, Bill, and their staff, help did come. They’d built their business from the ground up and never took a dime from anyone, but this was bigger than anything they’d imagined facing. The PPP loans allowed them to continue to pay their staff and helped them recover financially. Once again, Heidi followed the rules, and because she only spent the money to keep her staff employed, the first round has already been forgiven and won’t need to be repaid.
Heidi is no stranger to the challenges of running a bar in Utah, but many of the pandemic regulations left her scratching her head. In November, the state implemented a rule that bars would need to close their doors at 10 p.m.; however, anyone in the bar business knows that all the money is made between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. “So, I guess Corona comes out at 10:01,” Heidi says with a laugh. Representing businesses suffering from the curfew, the SLC Bar Alliance initiated a lawsuit against the state, which Heidi was ready to support. Luckily the state, perhaps realizing the rule was illogical, withdrew the restriction within three weeks.
Support from the community gave Heidi the reassurance she needed to get through. She feels incredibly grateful to the city of Ogden: “They’ve always let me be myself and I feel completely supported by the city. They’re happy we’re here and they have my back. It’s been that way since I first opened my doors.” For the businesses struggling and not knowing what to do next, Heidi offers some advice. “Hunker down. Stop buying anything you don’t need; limit your menu if you can. I want to say hang in there, but I’ve also been in those spots when I thought we’re not going to make it, and that’s a horrible feeling. I would say reach out to your city and the governor’s office to help direct you to the many resources available. The processes aren’t easy, and you have to be patient, but don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
It’s important to support the businesses that are the backbone of our economy. As The City Club likes to say, “Come together, right now, over drinks!” So, the next time you’re heading down Historic 25th in Ogden, look for Paul, John, Ringo and George’s faces framed in the windows looking over the street. Inside try The Yoko Burger with a Yellow Submarine cocktail, or the PB and John Burger with a Helter Skelter.
The City Club
264 Historic 25th Street, Ogden, Utah
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