Cheer to the Queers: The Iconic Club Try-Angles
251 W Harvey Milk Blvd.
Mon.–Fri.: 4 p.m.–1 a.m.
Sat.: 6 p.m.–1 a.m. | Sun.: 2 p.m.–1 a.m.
801.364.3203 | clubtryangles.com
Some know it as Salt Lake’s colorful neighborhood bar, others call it “Cheers for queers,” but most nightlife regulars will instantly recognize the iconic hub called Club Try-Angles. First opened in 2002, Try-Angles has become a symbol for queer counterculture and the ultimate safe space for anyone who seeks it. A welcoming watering hole by day and an electric nightclub by night (pre-pandemic, of course), a visit to Try-Angles promises an unforgettable experience for all.
Owner Gene Gieber came to Salt Lake City in 1980 from the self-described “hick town” of Wendover. Any small-town mentality was left in the arid desert lands as Gieber threw himself into Salt Lake’s burgeoning queer community. He joined the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire, Utah’s oldest LGBTQ+ nonprofit organization, and became a regular face at bars like Studio 8 and The Sun Tavern. Cheering on talented drag performers and communing with fellow night owls, Gieber got a glimpse into his unbeknownst future.
“I knew it would be perfect for a neighborhood-type bar, and I could control it to be a safe space for the LGBTQ community.”
It wasn’t until 2002 that Gieber would fulfill a long-destined role in Salt Lake’s vibrant bar scene. After 9/11 laid siege on the economy, Gieber was laid off from a computer software company and began looking into investment opportunities. He considered the prospect of a large nightclub, a prospect which his close circle adamantly advised against. In the end, Gieber decided against the flashy nightclub—a blessing since the establishment never opened. However, his taste for twilight convocation was rekindled and Gieber set on opening his own bar.
It took everything to make the dream a reality. He refinanced his house and cashed in his IRA. “I jokingly told people I was going to name it ‘Gene’s 401K’,” Gieber says. Every sacrifice paid off, and when he finally happened upon an unsuspecting building, Gieber knew it was to become Club Try-Angles. He says, “I knew it would be perfect for a neighborhood-type bar, and I could control it to be a safe space for the LGBTQ community.” Gieber outfitted the club with classic barstools, pool tables, club lights and neon signs, including my personal favorite, a rainbow Bud Light sign reading “Be Yourself.” Finally, the bar opened its arms to Salt Lake for the first time in July of 2002.
“While we miss [the drag performers] greatly during the pandemic, we have been streaming the 8-B!tch Digital Drag Shows on our big screen at the bar.”
For years, Try-Angles has sat at the helm of Salt Lake City’s queer nightlife, offering its welcoming dance floors as a hub for several organizations. The club’s calendar is now filled with weekly event nights ranging from Leather and Gear nights on the second Friday of each month to Underwear Night on the third Saturday. Of course, the club is also a popular venue to catch an exquisite drag show, and Try-Angles’ own drag troupe offers regular performances. Gieber recalls the conversation that sparked the idea for the group back in 2012. A casual workplace chat recalling his early days in the city turned nostalgic when he mentioned drag shows. So, “We started shows for new queens and queens that weren’t performing anywhere else,” he says. “It started with four, and then became more popular with each show.” Now dubbed Those Bitches at Try-Angles, the troupe includes over 12 queens with regular guest stars. Seasoned queens like Molly Mormon, Mona Diet, Luna Slipstream, Ava Zawhore, The Whore of ‘94 and several others have made the troupe a well-known presence in Salt Lake’s drag community.
Of course, things have operated differently at the club during the past year. The pandemic has pushed weekly events and drag shows into a standstill, although Gieber has found other ways to give back to the community. “While we miss [the drag performers] greatly during the pandemic, we have been streaming the 8-B!tch Digital Drag Shows on our big screen at the bar,” he says. Club Try-Angles hopes to restart its events in June, but time will tell if the moment is right.
Throughout its lifetime, Club Try-Angles has changed from one of several gay bars in the city to one of only two. Gieber notes the change isn’t necessarily a negative thing: “Mainstream SLC has become so welcoming [that] gay bars are not necessary as they once were.” While Salt Lake has embraced more progressive attitudes, the need for queer spaces remains. Try-Angles has held that space for almost 20 years now and will continue to uplift the community for decades to come. “We welcome all people, but still maintain to be a safe space for the LGBTQ community,” says Gieber.
“We welcome all people, but still maintain to be a safe space for the LGBTQ community.”
You can support Club Try-Angles by giving them a visit Monday through Sunday between 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. To find every event and drag show, head to their website, clubtryangles.com.
A visit to Club Try-angles isn’t complete without a boozy beverage in hand. Whether for their addicting taste or clever namesake, here are some of our favorite club cocktails:
- The Blood of Christ
- The Va-jay
- 5 Angry Bitches
- Mayhem Punch
- Top Pick: Gene’s own boozy creation aptly named Big Fruity—coconut rum, banana rum, pineapple rum, triple sec grenadine, fruit juices and Sierra Mist