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Green Street Blues

On May 3rd, Green Street had their hat handed to them. Their doors were chained by Trolley Square’s property managers for owing $120,000 in back rent. Unable to meet their responsibilities, Green Street’s 32 year run came to an end with chains locking the doors and their property seized. It’s probably not the way them wanted to end their reign as one of Salt Lake’s last remaining mega-club but in the end, poor financial decisions sealed their fate.

I never liked Green Street. It always felt like somebody else’s club. While they had a nice patio, the rest of the bar felt like two dozen Home Depot projects that never got finished. It smelt greasy and dirty. It had the smell of a wet hamster cage which is fine if you’re not trying to portray yourself as upscale club. I think a lot of factors went into the demise of Greet Street over the last five years and none more damaging than the construction of the Whole Foods in Trolley Square. Closures around the club forced Green Street to try and salvage their best characteristic: a large, open-aired patio. When that was taken away from them, Green Street deteriorated into a thuggish and brutal place. Between the off-duty police officer shooting, gang activity and fights, Green Street went from a fixture in Salt Lake to a dogged violent corner that should be avoided at all costs.

I like dive bars because I enjoy drinking. However, Green Street was never a dive bar. I would compare it to a basement bar build by a fraternity for the sole purpose of blackout nights and seducing sorority girls. To this day, I don’t know if they were branding themselves as a dance club, sport’s bar, restaurant, pool hall or patio bar. Burdened without an identity, Green Street was never able to tailor their business for a specific crowd. As much as I didn’t know who they were, I would argue that they didn’t have a clue who they were either. There was always an alternative motive for going to Green Street. People ended up there. Because of this, it became a magnet for customers around the valley who enjoyed fighting and casual rape more than socializing. It drew vulgar and obnoxious guests which was great because it kept these people out of bars that I worked or drank at.

There is a vast difference between Green Street abruptly ending their time in Trolley Square and Port O’ Call closing their doors. When Port O’ Call closed on the March 15, 2009, there was a huge gap left in the nightclub scene throughout Salt Lake City. Even those who didn’t enjoy Port subconsciously recognized that it filled a niche throughout the city. With three different levels, a dance floor, game rooms, good food and affordable drinks, Port was the place that anyone could find what they were looking for. Moreover, it appealed to a wide breath of different customers. Unlike other bars in Salt Lake that cater to particular types, Port had a cavalcade of different personalities and types rolling through their door every night of the week. Their identity was the fact that they clearly did not have a single one. I believe the success of Port was the fact that it was able to accommodate some many different types of guests successfully. Port was able to do so many things well giving it had a broad range of loyal customers. It wasn’t my favorite spot in Utah but it was always a strong option when thinking of something to do for the night.

When I was working at the Wyndham Hotel, Port O’ Call was my first suggestion for out-of-town guests simply because it was the best first option for people not familiar with Utah’s liquor laws. For lack of a better word, Port felt “normal” if such a thing could be labeled as such. I believe that every city has a Port O’ Call-esque club and visitors to Salt Lake could easily relate to this type of venue.

When Port O’ Call shut their doors, there was a mad dash of people trying to usurp those guests that didn’t have a favorite place to go. In the wake, two large clubs, Gracie’s and The Green Pig, opened each of which felt like poorly made photocopies of the original. In the end, you can’t recreate 30-plus years of experiences and frame them into new establishments. Port’s walls oozed wasted nights, good times and history. Port O’ Call embodied the expression of politicians, ugly buildings and whores gaining respectability by lasting long enough.

Green Street never had that sort of mystique. Tucked back into Trolley Square, it was always Plan B. While it was spacious and had a lot of televisions for watching sports, Green Street was populated with people ranging from The Jersey Shore to Peyton Place. It was a mixed bag of drunken old men, fraternity styled guys, hoochie-mamas and fellow confused customers wondering how did we end up here in the first place? Green Street always felt like it was the first choice of all of the thuggish types in town and a place where douche-bags felt at home.

During the day, it always felt like I should be somewhere else doing something more important than sipping beer out of marginally clean glasses. At night, it always felt like a fight was going to break out. The bouncers were meatheads, the cocktail waitresses slow and sluggish and the bartenders bad at their job. From a professional standpoint, I always felt like I could brew and bottle beer faster than they could pour a draft. If I wanted a shot, it better be a straight whiskey or I could be there awhile as they scrounge up a Boston’s Bartender’s Guide to learn how to make a kamikaze.

Nothing about the bar was comfortable or welcoming. I could make a laundry list of problems with the bar but I’ll settle on one point: they had bad draft beer. Draft beer is the single reason I go to bars. There is something very unsatisfying about drinking lukewarm beer out of a plastic stein. There is nothing better than a chilled glass filled with ice-cold draft beer. Plastic feels cheap and always seems to impart some sort of foreign taste that is a combination of dish soap and the previous drinker’s saliva. Drinking a stein of beer out of a chipped, faded plastic mug sends a very clear message: you don’t value or trust your customers with glass.

In fairness, I liked the food at Green Street. It wasn’t great food but it was Salt Lake’s best take on what bar food should taste like. I particularly enjoyed their buffalo chicken sandwich. It was equally delicious, messy and revolting. I often joked that when I had my food intervention, this would be this sandwich I would be forced to eat naked in front of the mirror. However, everything that was required to get to that sandwich was a massive pain. My friend, Phil, and I would meet at Green Street for lunch on occasion and I always left scratching my head why we didn’t just go to Crown Burger? Poor service was endemic at Green Street regardless of what time of day you visited the club. I always left strapped with a headache lamenting why I wasted my afternoon there.

The final nail for me about Green Street is that they actually celebrated the fact that Michael Jordan visited their bar. As any Utah Jazz fan will remember, game six of the 1998 NBA Finals was a dagger. MJ pushed off Bryon Russell and made the shot that stole for the Bulls the championship. The fact that Green Street can call themselves a Utah sport’s bar and allow Jordan onto the premises is deplorable. Jazz killers are never allowed in my bar even if they are the greatest of all time. For bouncers who would pat down my mother for weapons, I can’t believe they didn’t stop him at the door and send him packing.

I am still scratching my head how the owners of Green Street fell $120,000 behind in rent. As a previous owner of a bar in Salt Lake, I know firsthand how hard it is to make a go of selling nightlife in Utah. Yet, where other aspects of the club might falter, making sure the landlord was taken care of was always a priority. Not being able to make rent is usually a red flag for other problems the business is having.

The lasting effects of the Green Street Diaspora will probably not be felt for years. In the intermediate time, the patrons of Green Street will have to find their new club and the pickings are slim. Sport’s bars that double as dance clubs and Thunderdomes are pretty thin in Utah.  Last weekend, I saw the first stragglers of the Greet Street Refuges. I knew something was afoot when I started seeing Ute football jerseys in May and a rise in Coors Light consumption. I’m able to accommodate a handful of the GSRs but where will the rest of them go? Where can all of those Affliction T-shirt wearing patrons find respite with the limited amount of clubs in Utah? And more importantly, who will have them?

In the upcoming weeks, I imagine this muster of peacocks sporting spray-on tan, frosted tips and bedazzled blue jeans wandering the streets with their trashy Bebe-clad girlfriends looking for some place to knock back JagerBombs and Coors Lights. Like a pack of circus clowns cruising around town in stretch Hummer limos listening to the newest Buckcherry CD, they have a void that needs to be filled. Angry, crazed and self-entitled, this new breed of middle-class posers demand to be looked upon and worshipped. Like Vandals at the gate, they invade new bars seeking pleasures of the flesh and strong drink only to discover that they are not welcome. Unable to adapt, they either die in battle or resign to house parties back in Draper. If you think I am being overdramatic, try and remember what happened when Club Manhattan closed its doors.

In the end, I don’t think it is the $120,000 back rent that closed Green Street. It was arrogance. Arrogance that they could continually put out a substandard product and think the events surrounding their club would not have long-lasting implications. Shootings outside of any club aren’t a badge of honor. It is a glaring indication that they are doing something horribly wrong. Any bar that creates a culture of violence doesn’t need to be in business. The fact that they have been in able to stay open over the last three years is testament to the nerve of the owners and the blind loyalty of their customers. Those who eulogize Green Street are remembering the club from over five years ago. It’s unfortunate that the the thuggish and brutal atmosphere cultivated over the last few years will be their legacy.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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