Some Utahns may remember it as The Cedar Lounge, the tavern that began its life in 1957 as a garage and ended it in 2003 as a popular railroad and trucker bar.
But soon, people will know it by a different name: Jam in the Marmalade. Named to highlight the Marmalade district’s history as an orchard (a history which street names like Apricot and Almond still celebrate), the new club is a gay-friendly venture specializing in sports, live music, trendy food and drinks, and what founders are calling “a few surprises.”
“It was pretty run down when we got to it, but we’re bringing it from 1957 to 2008,” co-founder Robert McCarthy said of the building, which he and his business partners have since cleaned up to meet fire suppression and disability access codes. They’ve also given it a new look for 2008 — part retrospective, part contemporary. McCarthy and his partners have redesigned the club with bamboo flooring (“the Asian style is really in right now,” said McCarthy), tile, waterfalls, large windows to let in natural light, a big screen TV for sports fans to watch the Utah Jazz and plenty of room to serve as a social club by day and a dance floor by night.
“It’s going to have more of a feel of someplace like The Bayou,” said Jam co-founder Brian Morris. As he explains it, the idea for the club came about when he and his business partners McCarthy and Todd Kroft — all men in their late 30s and 40s — grew frustrated with some of the other options for social clubs around the Salt Lake Valley.
“We wanted to go out and socialize but the cig smoke was killing us, and we started this project a year ago and wanted to open up a club that was a healthier club, a smokeless club.”
Part of the commitment to being a “healthier club,” said Morris, is offering patrons non-alcoholic beverages (such as sports drinks) along with alcohol. He sees this commitment as following a trend other businesses in the neighborhood (like gay-friendly real estate developer Project Marmalade) have pursued — that of using healthier and more environmentally-friendly materials in projects.
Along with health, the club is also committed to its gay clientele. While both McCarthy and Morris stressed that people of all ages, sexual orientations and cultural backgrounds are welcome at Jam in the Marmalade, they said Utah’s gay population is one of their highest priorities. The club has made a commitment, for example, to sponsor the gay-friendly Mountain West Flag Football League and other such sports clubs and teams in the state.
“We feel like gay people are special people that have special talents and are people who deserve to be recognized for [their talents and skills],” said Morris. “So our idea is to celebrate gay people and their talents and what they’ve contributed to the world.”
To celebrate the gay community, Morris said the club will welcome groups who wish to us its lounge area for social and business meetings. It will also offer acoustic guitar performances on the patio on Sunday nights, live music and a surprise entertainment guest on midnight of a particular day each week.
While Morris wouldn’t say which day the surprise entertainment would appear, he did say, “The idea almost goes back to the idea of the court jester who would stop by and perform for the king.” And what kind of entertainment will it be? Comedy acts, singers and a few less than typical acts. “A unicycle group has offered to perform,” Morris said.
"One great element to this bar is that it’s going to be able to change a lot,” Morris continued. Much of the club’s furnishings are movable and its light plot consists of interchangeable lighting, so the club’s setup, he explained, is likely to change not only for each surprise guest but often from day to day to keep “that element of surprise” for visitors.
Along with these performances, Jam in the Marmalade will also have Saturday night barbecues, Sunday brunches, and snacks during week days, such as edamame (steamed soy beans), chips and salsa and cheese plates. “We don’t have space for a full kitchen, so the food will be enough to satisfy you but not enough to dine,” said McCarthy. A deejay will also spin every night starting at 10:00 p.m. and the house music during the day will be, as McCarthy explained, “kind of ’80s remixes and putting current pop hits to a dance beat.”
Although Jam’s owners are still working on settling a few issues — such as placing the building’s drains where city codes mandate — McCarthy said the three men hope to open the club in “mid to late August.”
Ultimately, McCarthy said he hopes Jam will be part of the rejuvenation of the a part of Salt Lake City that has often been considered to be run down and “blighted.”
“I think the rejuvenation of the area has really started. That’s what I love to see,” he said. “This is how small businesses get started, getting into this area and doing something beautiful that will also attract people to buy in the neighborhood.” Q