The Trapp is almost old enough to buy one of the drinks it serves.
On Sept. 18 the iconic bar celebrated its 20th anniversary in style with a drag show featuring local stars Coco, Walter and Sheneka Christie, the Queen Mother of local charitable drag group the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire.
“The Trapp is really the offshoot of the old Sun Tavern I owned, where the first [Utah] gay pride started as a kegger and we had our first community center,” said owner Joe Redburn, who is also well-known as one of Utah’s first and most outspoken liberal radio personalities.
The Sun Tavern met an untimely demise in the summer of 1999. Shortly after Redburn sold it to new owners a freak tornado tore through downtown Salt Lake City, tearing shingles off several buildings and slamming right into the bar.
“[The tornado] barely missed The Trapp,” said Redburn. “It tore off a neon sign and that was it, so we were lucky.”
As for The Trapp itself, Redburn purchased the building in which it now resides in 1990 from Max Mercier, who also owned the property that is now Studio 27 (previously it was home to The Trapp Door, which closed last year). Redburn said he bought the building because he liked its look.
“I like small bars, not great big ones,” he explained.
When Redburn purchased the building, its walls were covered with cement. When he tore that away, he found the beautiful bricks that patrons now love. He then added some stained glass to complete the look.
“In the beginning we just had the front part which is now the dance floor,” he said.
In 1991, he added a patio, which he then had enclosed. An outdoor patio followed shortly after. Today it is the home of the bar’s famous summer barbecues and its weekend buffets.
The Trapp is also famous for its charitable work. Each year Redburn holds a fund raiser for the Utah AIDS Foundation. RCGSE performers also hold yearly drag shows to raise money for Utahns living with HIV/AIDS and for breast cancer research.
And that, said Redburn, is part of his favorite thing about the bar.
“One of the things I’m proudest about The Trapp is it’s such a family bar,” he said. “We have gay, straight and trans people come here. If someone loses their job we try to help them get a job. It’s a very close knit group of people, especially the afternoon crowd. The nighttime is a lot of the younger crowd and I think they kind of bar hop.”
If you missed out on The Trapp’s 20th birthday bash, there’s no need to worry. With Halloween right around the corner, there will be another fabulous party to attend.
“The Trapp’s always been the place for Halloween,” said Redburn. “We have prizes for the best costume, the most original costume and other costumes that we think deserve a prize of $25. We hope everyone will show up.”
If you want to show up, The Trapp is located at 102 S. 600 West. Costume judging begins at 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29.
“But I think the whole weekend will be Halloween,” Redburn added.