How would you run a bar during a pandemic? It’s a math problem, really, involving square footage, cost of food and drink, number of checks, number of customers. After a couple months of closure, the three owners of Water Witch (Matt Pfohl, Sean Neves, Scott Gardner) have their answer.
Water Witch, one of Salt Lake’s most beloved bars, re-opened softly this week.
Pre-COVID, the tiny place, owned by three of the best bartenders in town, used to pack people inside shoulder to shoulder and out on to the patio even in fairly foul weather.
“Now we can seat 13 people inside,” says co-owner Sean Neves, “with 10 more outside.”
It’s obviously going to be hard to turn a profit based on those numbers, but the Witch has a couple things going in its favor. Magic bartender co-owner Scott Gardner has been in his laboratory inventing incredibly creative craft cocktails, a bit of a turn for the Witch which has always prided itself on its lack of pretension.
“The Tequila Drink” (Gardner is great with ingredients but doesn’t care about titles.) features watermelon juice, verjus rouge, tequila, honey and a bit of citric acid (tart, but avoiding invasive overtones of lime or lemon), is then hand-carbonated, finished with a watermelon ice cube and served in a tajin-rimmed glass.
Another drink features a smoke-filled bubble on top of the glass—which just burst in regular Witcher Aaron Weslow’s face.
Or you can order brandy with a touch of truffle. With that, order from the touch-free menu—a variety of imported tinned fish, a waffled grilled cheese, pate. “We’re really thinking of ourselves as a cocktail restaurant,” says Gardner. “Ticket prices will be higher per person, but we have more to offer.”
During its closure, the Witch has installed a plexi glass shield, modified the HVAC system with a germicidal air scrubber and installed electrostatic airscrubbers. Returning Witch devotees—and that’s the second thing this bar has going for it: extreme loyalists—will be safe and delighted. Call ahead for reservations or crowd estimates. Call 801-462-0967 or email info@waterwitch.
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