This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Christmas wreath still hung on the door at Fats Grill as longtime patrons met up at the popular Sugar House pool hall and bar for one last night of good times laced with mourning.
The beloved venue for pool, poker and live music was to close for good after last call. It's scheduled for demolition.
"I'm torn up inside," Jesse Rogers said, holding his cue after sinking his latest ball among thousands at Fats. He had come to the bar for years of practice, tournaments and good company.
"This is my Zen place. It's like a second home," Rogers said. "The heart of Sugar House is dying with this place. ... This is the place where people gathered."
Crowds filed by the pool tables as sounds of tambourines and singing filled the front window, where 18 local bands were featured throughout the night.
"Each one won't get much time, but everybody wanted to get involved to say goodbye," said Mishell Caligiuri, who has owned the bar with her husband, Mario, for the past seven years.
Fats Grill opened in July 1998. It brought a special down-home vibe to Sugar House one that is going to be "missed immensely," said Mo Giepert, who said he had been playing pool there since it opened.
"This is my 'Cheers,'" Giepert said.
It was the kind of place where you could order a cheeseburger and a beer and lose track of time.
And Fats was a place to catch local bands on the weekend. Musicians liked to play there because it was well-equipped with a nice layout for audiences.
Not least, Fats hosted poker tournaments that were a big draw for those itching for a hole-card high.
"It's been the time of my life," Caligiuri said Wednesday afternoon. "It was a lot of work and a lot of fun."
Developer Craig Mecham, who owns the building at 2182 Highland Drive, is planning an office tower for the ground just south of the Vue apartment complex. Fats Grill will be demolished along with Hyland Plaza a small mall that houses a number of small shops, also owned by Mecham.
Sitting between Fats Grill and Hyland Plaza is the Bar in Sugarhouse. The place was known by old timers as The Tap Room. Owner Spencer Ahrend said he is sad to see Fats Grill leaving.
"They have been a great neighbor, and we have shared customers," he said. "It's a bummer they're leaving."
Ahrend said he has been offered a buyout, but he didn't take it. "We're not selling. We want to stay," he said.
Mecham could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Wee Hardman, who owns a tattoo parlor less than a block away, said she anticipates being priced out of the neighborhood within a year or two. Neighboring businesses like Fats helped bring in a lot of her clients, and she, in turn, visited Fats nightly.
"Since I was a little kid, Sugar House was the place where small business could come and flourish," she said while chatting with friends on the patio. Jessica Vance, who lives in Sugar House, recalled visiting the neighborhood's former furniture shops as a child with her grandmother. The loss of her favorite watering hole feels like the end of an era, she said.
"We're sick about this," she said. "I lost sleep, seriously."
As she said goodbye to her friends on the patio and walked back into the bar, it occurred to her that the place that brought them together would be no more.
"We need to be in agreement where we'll meet again!" she called out from the threshold, as her voice was overwhelmed by the music inside and the door swung shut.