One’s first steps into The Tavernacle should be cautious in order to avoid being overwhelmed by the enormous energy it emanates. I recently had the chance to make my first visit – it was a Saturday night, the bar was packed beyond belief, and for obvious good reason.
By packed, I mean I was genuinely concerned about the fire marshal showing up at a moment’s notice, but I’m sure they do a good job at regulating the capacity. As it turned out, packed was a great thing.
The night that I went there were several, at least half a dozen, groups celebrating birthdays; plenty of (responsible) debauchery was being had by all, including a middle-aged woman celebrating her birthday by singing and dancing to “I Touch Myself” on top of the pianos with a feather boa. I couldn’t help but root for her – I love seeing that kind of exuberance.
The location is wonderful. Nestled in with some of my favorite local shops and galleries in the city, The Tav has played an essential role in developing the neighborhood surrounding the 300 South and 200 East intersection over the last 10 years.
I was greeted with a smile from the very amiable door staff. The particular bartender who was attending to our first round of drinks seemed to struggle with multitasking a bit, but efficiency and speed aside, he was convivial and pleasant, and he slung a decent drink. However, it would be only fair to mention that it would be pretty hard to botch my partner’s and my order of a gin and tonic and a bottle of Stella.
The cocktail servers were excellent at making consistent rounds in a cheerful manner, ensuring everyone had a fresh drink, despite barely being able to maneuver around the minimal space between people and tables, and what seemed like a pretty overwhelming crowd to serve, considering the staff-to-patron ratio. Not to mention, let’s be honest, the cocktail servers were total babes. No complaints about that part.
Clearly, people come to this bar for the pianos. In this case, I loved that all the tables surrounded the two pianos on a raised stage. The three pianists alternated between the two pianos, each with their own style, but all three were astoundingly capable of captivating and engaging the entire audience.
I’m not sure if I saw a single person who wasn’t either singing with nearly bursting lungs, or with at least a highly amused grin. The scene was picturesque, like an old-time British pub. I half expected them to serve the beer in those metal steins with the lids, and for all of us to put our arms around each other in song, with beer sloshing all over the floor like you see in the movies.
On that particular weekend my sister and I happened to be entertaining our cousin who was in town from Seattle, and I was happy to see that our cousin was impressed and enjoyed herself fully. It was also my sister’s first visit to The Tav; she was impressed enough to decide on the spot that she’d have her bachelorette party there next month.
I was pleased to run into some old friends, to sing jovially along with all the other patrons, and to wonder if the female pianist could beat me in a wrestling match, as we were all in awe about the fit state of her upper body. We met her husband, I believe he said she does yoga. (I think I might be gay!)
Speaking of which, The Tavernacle makes evident strides toward being inclusive and contributory to the queer community. I, and many queer friends of mine, have reports of being very comfortable and happy with patronizing this bar, and I have yet to hear any sort of discrimination against queers, as I have unfortunately heard occur even with a couple certain self-branded “queer-specific” bars and clubs in Salt Lake City.
In the end, I was very happy about my experience, slightly disappointed that I took so long to visit in the first place, but I look forward to many more visits to The Tavernacle in the future. I don’t see this bar going anywhere anytime soon, and it was obvious in the first 10 minutes I was there why I hear of so many birthday and similar celebrations that take place there. It seems like a place to have a night of epic (for want of a better word – feel free to smack me for using that word) proportion and stories to tell the next day without fail. I’m not sure what it is, but whatever they are doing at The Tavernacle, they are doing it exactly right.