Popping to the Pub for a Pint: A History of Bars

Where Things Happen

When one considers the English pub, a few characteristics come to mind: it serves alcoholic beverages and maybe some food, it is steeped in history, and it tends to be the gathering place for friends and coworkers once the day’s business is done. It’s hard to say which is the most important; take away one aspect and the pub loses a part of its soul. 

As the most fundamental part of the pub, the drinking menu is arguably the most important characteristic and also the easiest to replicate. The history and its subsequent fixture in the town’s culture is far trickier to achieve. A pub isn’t just a place to relax; its availability makes it an important counterpart to everything else that goes on in the area. In many ways, it’s a town hall, a police station, a court, and a clubhouse all in one — it’s where things happen; where every important decision or development first starts up or ultimately winds down.

As Salt Lake City’s premier bar and restaurant, located directly in the heart of the action Downtown, and with a history that goes back over a century, Lake Effect is the closest thing to an English pub that Utah is likely to ever know. But where did this tradition even begin?

A Place for the Public

If you are new to Lake Effect, you’ll quickly recognize that it wears many hats; it provides fine dining to SLC, is a great place to wind down with a drink, and is one of Utah’s most popular events venues. In fact, this identity echoes the role our English predecessors have played on the other side of the pond for centuries.

Whereas we in Utah have bars, which get their name from the bars on which we rest our feet when we sit up at the counter to drink, people in the UK have been going to pubs since the days of the Roman Empire. In fact, the word pub is short for a “public house,” which, in terms of function, is exactly what it sounds like. A few quick facts:

  • Public houses were meant to be a place that anyone could go to get a drink without the need for a membership card or proof of citizenship.
  • As the Romans built a network of roads across the UK, they set up drinking establishments every few miles to act as oases along the journey.
  • Some of the oldest public houses still operational are thousands of years old.

It’s fun to imagine that the genesis of our particular SLC dining experience began with the legionnaires, but it’s true. A few millennia later and the public house tradition is as vibrant as ever.

Entering the Modern Era

From the earliest days of these public houses, multiple iterations have popped up throughout history, reflecting the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation of enterprising barkeeps everywhere. Despite changes to the design of the buildings and the activities therein, you’ll find that the central theme of taking a load off with an alcoholic beverage remained unchanged. Such changes include:

  • Inns: These buildings took the pub concept and added rooms where one could spend the night. Additionally, a kitchen was usually installed for the proprietor to provide a hot meal to their patrons.
  • Saloons: Often a multi-storied building, the saloon concept was built around drinking and gambling, but often had rooms where travelers could bathe or relax.
  • Bars: The closest iteration to the original pub, bars specialize in many different types of drinks and feature a space for musical acts to come and perform.

As society progressed, both in terms of technology and outward expansion, there became a need for all of these types of public houses to find their way into cities and towns. In fact, much of the early metropolitan zoning was done around landmarks like the courthouse and the pub.

Today, Lake Effect is keeping the public house tradition alive by offering the best bar and dining experience in Utah. If you are interested in reserving a space for an upcoming event, fill out the form here and let us host your next big party.