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Bar Life, Salt Lake City, Utah

City Weekly Whiffs with Best of Utah

How did you numb-nuts fuck this up?

All you had to do was enter Raskin’s Rhetoric in the City Weekly Best of Utah 2012 poll for best Utah blog and I would be proudly showing off a piece of hardware recognizing the hours I have spent in the basement ranting and raving about bartending here in Salt Lake. It wasn’t hard. Christ, I must have entered my name over 45+ times stuffing the ballot box as hard as I stuff my face with Cheetos writing these cockamamie columns. After all the free funny I’ve given away and this is how you treat a brother…

The only way to summarize my feelings is to quote The Wire’s Omar: “I’ll do what I can to help y’all. But, the game’s out there, and it’s play or get played. That simple.”

I have no idea what that means but I do know that I was miffed when I saw that I didn’t get a nod from the alternative paper of record for Salt Lake City. I didn’t expect to win the Pulitzer Prize of Utah for writing about douche-bags and their input on the club scene in Salt Lake but I was taken back that an in-house blogger gets the hardware. I know this sounds like a bunch of sour grapes but fraternization at City Weekly has reached a point that I am surprised Bill Frost didn’t give himself an award for Best Abs or some other bullshit award.

In all fairness, I would like to extend a tip of the hat to Gavin Sheehan for Gavin’s Underground. He is a good writer and does the Lord’s work promoting the local music scene in SLC. It’s important having a go-to guy to write about music and be invested in discovering the trends that are flowing through the city. I not only read him every week but I follow him on Twitter and you should too. Click on this link to see what kind of contribution he is making to the town via the Twitter-sphere.

With that said: how the fuck did a blog based out of OGDEN win third prize? If the banner of the City Weekly doesn’t have Davis County anywhere near it, how did an Ogden based blog site get any traction or consideration when you need to take a 30-minute car ride to get to O-Town?  I guess I should be careful next year not to get snubbed for the bronze medal next year by some hard-hitting blogger from Missoula Montana.

City Weekly has bothered me for the last couple of years. The hard-hitting, independent spirit of the weekly newspaper has seemed to warped into a series of inside jokes, laundry lists and advertising. Somehow it feels less like the voice of the unrepresented in Salt Lake and more like a 64-page advertisement for which place has the best wings in town.

When I owned The Woodshed I never saw any value in being in the paper. The only thing that I knew was that if I wasn’t in the City Weekly people thought that I was closing my doors permanently. It was the strangest calculus: advertise in a newspaper that does nothing to attract customers to your business or don’t advertise with them and customers think you’re out of business. It is a lose-lose proposition and one that I danced with for three years.

Contrary to what you might think, advertising in City Weekly is not cheap. I was paying upwards of $300 for a small ad every week and was seeing very little return on my investment. For the times that I didn’t pony up (i.e. this is code for when I had to choice between making payroll or putting a pathetic ad in a paper that would draw not one addition customer to my club), I spent more time explaining to people that the club wasn’t going under as oppose to me trying to save some money on ineffective advertising.

It was explained to me by my friend, Scott, who owns The Tavernacle that advertising in City Weekly is more of a validity in being in the bar scene in Salt Lake than a tool to command new customers. It’s the equivalent to flying your flag amongst the drinkers of the town. Short of that, it did nothing for my bottom-line.

What City Weekly is good at doing is promoting City Weekly. And nowhere is this more apparent that with their annual Best of Utah edition. The biggest issue of the year, City Weekly ranks all aspects of things in Salt Lake. It’s their take on what rocks and what sucks in the valley. Readers submit a survey but the editorial board comes up with a bunch of made-up categories to appease the masses.  But more than that, Best of Utah is big because they use it as their featured story for the ENTIRE YEAR on their website. Out-of-towners with less sense than my dog treat this write-up as the definitive word on life in the city. Win a goofy award and expect every Tom, Dick and Harry from the Midwest to consider it gospel here in the Beehive State.

On the surface you would think that winning a Best of Utah has value until you look at the laundry list of made-up and ridiculous categories they come up with to fill space. Here is a small sample of some of the non-readers choice awards handed out this year: Best New (Patio) Addition, Best Begging for You Salt, Best Bold Bras, Best Self-Promoter, Best Magic Beanstalks, Best Reason to Get Juiced, etc&. The list goes on but I am sure you already know that. The distinction between a legitimate award and one that screams an in-house hello to future advertisers is whether or not it wins the reader’s choice. I’ve made peace with the fact that I am not one of the top three (hundred) bloggers in Utah but thank God I wasn’t given some Best Bartender Who Owns Microsoft Word Award as a pity prize.

I think that is why I am actually mad at City Weekly for their review of my employer. Keys On Main won the very prestigious award for 2012 as Best Main Refrain. I think I speak for the entire staff at Keys On Main when I say, “What the fuck kind of horseshit too many lattes late-night drummed-up bullshit ball-licking award is that?” Best Main Refrain? Did Dr. Seuss come up with this award?

I am going to quote the entire summary of the award from City Weekly directly:

It does the soul good, riding down Main Street on Trax and seeing a lively piano bar pulling in the crowds at the Gallivan stop. For those recent years when downtown had little to offer except widespread construction, Keys on Main kept the lights on and gave revelers a reason to gather, eat pub food, clink their glasses, request and sing along to piano tunes played by talented entertainers. Now that downtown’s got its groove back, Keys on Main is still the best place to get your party on and take a train home.

Apparently, we won a big award because we didn’t go out of business during the construction of City Creek. That is the full extent of it. Nothing about the good service, killer drinks, great food, strong management, solid concept or the fact that it is the best God damn nightclub in downtown Salt Lake City. It sounds like we won a Purple Heart more than recognition for the efforts of everyone who works at the club. How could they be so far off the mark when their offices are DIRECTLY above us?

Admittedly, I am a company man. I have worked for Keys On Main for over two years and have been appreciative of the opportunity to pour drinks for my boss, George, every time I warm up the blender. He saved my bacon when he hired me by taking a chance that a failed bar owner might make a decent bartender. For the last 26-months behind the bar, I might have seen a change in staff but never a change in direction. Keys On Main has been a force of nature that started much earlier than City Creek was even a glimmer in Gordon Hinckley’s eye.

Best of Utah is nothing but the editorial and advertising boards of City Weekly getting together and working in tandem to drum up business. It completely devalues the integrity of City Weekly with each Best of Utah editions by jeopardizing the real stories that they are more than capable of producing.

I know that I am a fraud. On my best days, I am a mediocre writer that babbles about life in Utah from the very jaded eye of somebody who drinks too much and doesn’t get enough exercise. I am a bartender with a thesaurus and a hatred of grammar and editing. However, I know that the gravitas the independent newspaper for Salt Lake is diminished with each slipshod edition of the Best of Utah. It feels less like a recognition for the people who make Utah a remarkable place and more like some carefully crafted circle jerk. The fact that in the same breath City Weekly can call themselves an independent force in Utah while driving all aspects of their content via their advertising is an embarrassment.

Ben Raskin proudly pours drinks at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin or check out his podcast, SLC PubCast. He is probably leading the polls for Blogger of the Year in 2013.

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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.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “City Weekly Whiffs with Best of Utah

  1. That sucks man. I love reading your blog, I look forward to new posts each week.

    Posted by Darci | March 29, 2012, 10:52 am
  2. Not that I had alot of respect for City Weekly in the first place, but I really have no respect for them at all. You’re the blogger of bloggers! You’re the blogger I look up to and hope I can be as good as you one day. Plus, what the hell kind of review is that of Keys on Main? Good Lord that was pathetic. I agree with you. It would’ve been nice if they would’ve touched on the awesome service, drinks & food you get there.

    Posted by triing2survive | March 30, 2012, 7:47 pm

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