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She Culture Review: The Paper Moon

Long gone were the days of MoDiggity’s, Thursdays at The Trapp Door, Crush at The Bay (then known as Club Bliss), Tease at Club Edge, and all the rest of the one-worded lesbian-night themed attempts from local bars and clubs. What’s left is Paper Moon.

Long gone were the days of MoDiggity’s, Thursdays at The Trapp Door, Crush at The Bay (then known as Club Bliss), Tease at Club Edge, and all the rest of the one-worded lesbian-night themed attempts from local bars and clubs. What’s left is Paper Moon.

I’ve been an occasional patron of the Moon in the past, but somehow that’s strangely embarrassing to admit publicly. It’s not the worst bar or club I’ve ever visited, but I can, however, say with confidence that it is certainly far from the best.

Let’s start with location. Growing up with an architect/real estate developer as my father, the common phrase, “location, location, location,” has been effectively burned in my brain as the first rule to a successful business, and a prosperous investment.

I spent my most recent birthday at Paper Moon. Easily half of my friends (gay, straight, bi, men, women, and otherwise) decided to not attend solely because it was too far away from downtown Salt Lake City.

I’ve lived downtown for the past eight years or so and I don’t like bars to be further than a reasonable walking distance, or a short taxi ride away, just in case. Twenty dollar taxi fare later is the Paper Moon.

I can’t imagine how much more business they’re losing, due in part only to their location.

Anyway, let’s say we’ve arrived. At the door everyone is charged $6 on the weekends. It’s a fair cover charge, if cover charges still existed similarly everywhere else. They don’t.

I absolutely don’t mind paying a cover charge, if only for one of the following reasons: if there’s a band playing, I fully support local music. Or, if it efficiently weeds out freeloaders who pre-party, then show up to the bar, already incoherent enough to not purchase any drinks.

From what I can see, the cover charge in place at the Moon achieves neither of my chosen requirements regarding charging at the door. I thought private club cover charges went out to the wind with the lesbian faux-hawk two years ago? Apparently not. In both respects.

So now we’re in the bar, past the door, and approaching the bar. The bartenders are usually very friendly. I even have my favorite, Rachel, who is undoubtedly the employee who has shown me the most hospitality. The music is steadily an enjoyable selection, and easy to dance to. Despite the innavigable, unapproachable (fishbowl-like, really) layout of the dance floor, surrounded on three sides by tables and gazing people, it’s nothing that a few drinks can’t handle before I can comfortably shake “what my momma gave me.”

I manage a bar myself, and I have a strong hunch that their set amount of liquor dispensed from their BERG (a system used everywhere in Utah, required by the state, to control and count the amount and number of drinks poured) is only 1 oz. pours. By Utah state law, any given drink may only have 1.5 oz. of the base liquor, and up to .5 oz of flavorings.

Many establishments decide on the 1.5-ounce pour, many do 1.25 ounces, and a few, just an ounce. Squatter’s, for example, does a 1-ounce pour for their Sunday brunch bloody marys, but charge $1.99. It’s a steal, and an effective way of bringing people in the door and buying more drinks.

For the same drink at Paper Moon, I would be prepared to pay at least $6.

I hate to toot my own horn, but it’s for educational purposes, I promise. I’m well aware of the cost per ounce and profit margin of any type of drink in Utah. Their well vodka, for example, Taaka, costs about $6 for a 750-mL bottle at the liquor store. Let’s say there are about 26 1-ounce shots in that bottle. One purchase of one drink at the Moon pays for that bottle.

Considering what you get in the drinks at the Paper Moon, it is not worth the price. Just because the Moon has essentially a monopoly on the lesbian demographic, it is absolutely not permission to take advantage of their patrons. I’ll gladly go to Twilite Lounge for a $4 Jim Beam (about $16 for a 750-mL bottle at the liquor store), or to The Red Door, Kristauf’s, or Christopher’s Martini Bar for an $11+ designer martini with fresh ingredients, but I can at the very least, rest assured that I got exactly what I paid for.

Considering location, the cost for their property should be much lower than a bar downtown. The atmosphere and décor is outdated and slightly grungy, mediocre at best. Their overhead is relatively low – they employ a few bartenders, a couple people at the door and a couple cocktail waitresses. There’s no wait staff (servers, back-servers, bussers), no dishwashers, no cooks, no hostesses to pay like a sit-down restaurant, so why do they charge similar prices for their drinks?

In any case, regardless of the drink prices and cover charge, the clientele is mostly lackluster and passé. Perhaps more bothersome than everything else previously mentioned is the fact that they call last call not at 1 a.m., but start announcing it at 12:15. Their official last call is usually around 12:45 a.m., and the chairs are put up on the tables by 1:00 as a clear sign that they want everybody out to ensure that the staff can go home much earlier than any bar staff would.

To sum it up, I hate to be so cynical, but I’d be a bad reviewer if I weren’t honest about an establishment’s strengths and failures. I’m not quite disgusted, but certainly not impressed with the Paper Moon. Until I see improvement, or until they cease to pretend being a business that they are definitely not, my opinion is unwavering.

You would think that with all the extra income from the unnecessary cover charge and overpriced drinks would be more than sufficient to take care of the needs and maintenance of the bar that they would have some extra disposable income to spend some money on making their establishment better, in every aspect.

Take it or leave it, that’s all that we have. Let’s just hope that someone will raise the bar for the lesbians in Salt Lake City.

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About the author

Annalisa Millo

2 Comments

  • Dear the lovely and talented Annalisa,
    For starters I am lucky to have such a wonderful and close friend like you that is not afraid to critique the niche in which you are associated. Naturally I am in complete and total agreement with your article, I think that the bar is set for the local lesbian crowd, yet I question why the Moon has remained in business for so long? Why the loyalty? Especially, since the crowd seems to always been the same. Like you I have spent my fair time at the moon but most defiantly do not make it a weekly occurrence. In reference to your previous article regarding Lesbian fashion I seem to notice a tie between the moon and the lack of fashion. So… where is the compromise? I have been here in Utah since 2003 and have yet to find where fashion meets wine tastings meet lesbian. I propose you look into this issue for one of your articles, if the moon is overpriced and underdressed, where shall we spend out weekend nights?

  • May I just add that as someone that most lesbians would consider “Lipstick”, I am always made to feel like an outcast by the rest of the cliental. I have visited the Moon many times, but officially gave up a couple of years ago. Yes, I like to put on dresses, heels, and makeup when I go out on the town. That is no reason to give me dirty looks when I go to “your” bar, as if I’m some straight bitch that accidently stumbled in and doesn’t deserve to be there. Even worse, if I come in with a girl who is obviously gay, it seems to be assumed that I am some girl who, “kissed a girl and liked it.” Have you noticed that at the annual White Party, there are dozens of beautiful women, but that they are almost never there during the rest of the year? This is why. Maybe if the regular cliental were willing to venture out of their butch clique, they would score the femme that they claim to love.

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