Grand Reopening of Historic SLC Gay Bar The Sun Trapp • Salt Lake Magazine

Historic gay bar The SunTrapp will reopen Saturday, June 8, 2024 at 7 p.m., after the bar closed in January this year and the owners surrendered their liquor license. The bar will reopen this weekend with a new liquor license and a slightly different name — as you may have noticed — The SunTrapp (one word, instead of two), according to new owner Mary Peterson.

Peterson has worked as an accountant for The Sun Trapp and says she will continue in that role for some time in addition to her role as owner. The SunTrapp also.

The history of The SunTapp (formerly known as The Sun Trapp and, including earlier versions, The Sun Tavern and just The Trapp) dates back to 1973, when Joe Redburn opened the doors to Salt Lake City’s first and only openly gay bar, The Sun. Tavern.

Stories from The SunTrapp (formerly known as The Sun Trapp)

Over the past 50 years, the bar has closed and reopened several times, changing names, owners and locations, but its repeated phoenix-like return is a testament to the impact it has had on Utah’s gay community.

The SunTrapp is no longer the only LGBTQ+ bar in town, and that’s partly thanks to its former owners, managers, and employees who opened LGBTQ+ bars and clubs like Club verse. But for many gays who came before, the Trapp was the only place where they felt welcome and safe to be themselves.

“I really enjoyed my time there. I got to know the gay community a lot better. I met a lot of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” says Michael Walton, former security at The Sun Trapp, who regularly organizes events with his group Utah bears in the gay bar Club trial corners and DJs Thursday evening Psych-Out on KRCL. Even before working in security around 2018-2019, Walton’s connection to The Sun Trapp goes back to celebrating his 21st birthday there.

“I used to visit there a lot when I was in my 20s, and it was a fun, hip country bar back then,” he recalls. “They had a disco ball in the shape of a cowboy boot.”

“The year I worked there was kind of a hedonistic time for the bar,” Walton says. “It was so popular.” He remembers when former co-owner Michael Repp (now co-owner of Club Verse) went up on the roof with a giant inflatable unicorn sprinkler and sprayed people dancing outside. “People loved it and went crazy about it, and their phones broke because they were having so much fun.”

Walton also sings the praises of once-regular Sun Trapp DJ, DJ Naomi, which is now running at Club Verse. “She was fantastic and had a good finger on the pulse of what people wanted to dance to. She was a big draw.”

While The Sun Trapp was a place for celebration, it also often sought tragedy.

During Walton’s short time there, a mainstay of Utah’s gay community and The Sun Trapp, Dennis Rowley Gwyther was murdered in 2019. “Dennis was an absolute sweetheart. He was very nice. He was the DJ for years.” Not long before, The Sun Trapp had lost one of its then owners, Rob Goulding, to pancreatic cancer.

More than 50 years of The Sun Trapp

In February 1973, Joe Redburn purchased the Railroad Exchange Saloon at the corner of 400 West and South Temple. He reopened as an openly gay bar and called it The Sun Tavern, sometimes shortened to simply “The Sun.” (As the story goes, it was a nod to San Francisco bar Midnight Sun.)

Less than ten years later, in the early 1980s, the bar was demolished to make way for the future Delta Center. The Sun Tavern has found a new location, in the former home of the Kozy Bar, at 700 West and 200 South. In 1990, Redburn sold The Sun Tavern and opened The Trapp a year later.

In 1999, the Salt Lake City tornado destroyed The Sun Tavern. I’m sure you can imagine the jokes at the time about God exercising His will against the homosexual menace. Around the same time, Redburn sold The Trapp. Goulding bought the bar and renamed it in honor of The Sun and The Trapp, and it has since been called The Sun Trapp (now The SunTrapp).

In its long history, The Sun Trapp has been offline many times, but never until now. Although the bar keeps coming back in one form or another, it has not remained unchanged.

When it comes to maintaining the culture of a gay bar, longevity and popularity take their toll for some. “On weekends there was always a long line. We always reached maximum capacity, and it was still fun. It was still a nice bar,” Walton said. “But that dynamic changed as it became more popular. And with the development in that neighborhood, that will most likely change the dynamics.” As Walton puts it, a gay bar is only a gay bar as long as the clientele is homosexual. Otherwise it’s just another bar with rainbow flags hanging in the windows.

The umbrella of the queer community has expanded over the past fifty years to include more identities and expressions of gender and sexuality, and maintaining queer spaces for queer people may seem at odds with the oft-stated goal of inclusion.

What this latest version of the bar will be – a gay bar, an LGTBQ+ bar or a gay-friendly bar, etc. – we’ll have to see for ourselves this weekend, when The SunTrapp rises like the phoenix once again.

Check out our guide to LGBTQ+ Pride Month in Utah and more stories like this, plus all of our culture and community coverage. And while you’re here, subscribe and receive six annual issues of Salt Lake magazine’s curated guide to the best of living in Utah.

Back To Top