About 9:30 on a Thursday night, and no one had shown up at The Republican with a single book.
A handful of people who looked like regulars were in attendance at the Irish pub on State Street, but nobody seemed to be here for the once-monthly "book swap" night, where Tom Waits music filled the air.
Pub manager Josh Stasinos screened the 1986 Waits flick "Down by Law" on one of several TVs, as the singer's birthday was the next day.
Soccer is king at The Republican, and normally every TV in the pub is showing a match. Guinness is always on hand, and Stasinos is ready to pour a "perfect" pint, where the creamy head reaches just above the harp logo on the room-temperature Guinness "tulip" glass.
The Republican, billed as an Irish pub, is a long and narrow space, 75 feet from door to rear, with no windows and no kitchen. The front door is made of aged wood and sports brass accents.
Inside, the walls are pale green and pockmarked, while the floors are stained with remnants of adhesives once used to hold down tiles or linoleum.
"It's your neighborhood pub," said bartender Jackie Rumery. "It's super chill. It's drama free. … It's meant to feel like a home away from home in Ireland."
In the back, there's a vending machine offering cigarettes and candy bars. At one end of the bar are two cork dartboards, while other games such as pool, foosball and pinball are also available. Hanging around the place are mirrors and signs bearing the names of Irish beers and liquor. Dim one-bulb fixtures dangle from the black ceiling by single wires.
"It's not much to look at, but it's home," said David Rankin, who doubles here as the "door guy" and a bartender. "It's kind of a giant hallway on the inside."
Near the bathrooms in the back someone has hung a flag that says: "Don't Give Up the Ship." The green, white and orange national flag of Ireland hangs inside and out front.
LJ Andrus is among the regulars at The Republican, affectionately known as a "dive bar" to friends.
"You're here to have beers, hopefully meet new people and have a good conversation," Andrus said. "It's the epitome of a pub."
Two popular weekly events are Monday pub quiz nights and Bacon Night on Wednesdays, when bartender Adam Keithley brings in griddles and 10 pounds of bacon.
Some tote ingredients for BLTs or salad. "I've had people bring doughnuts," added Keithley, who then wraps the bakery item in bacon and fries it.
The popularity of Bacon Night isn't hard to decode. "Dude, it's free bacon," Keithley said. "Who doesn't like free bacon?"
The monthly book swap, however, seemed to falter in its first-Thursday-of-the-month slot in December.
But by about 10:30 p.m., Cat Fennwald brought in a box of books and dumped it on a large table.
The swap was saved, sort of. "Tom Waits night, a success," said Stasinos. "Book swap, not so much."
It's a grand old pub
Where • 917 S. State St., Salt Lake City; 801-595-1916 or facebook.com/pages/The-Republican/120306784688000
Hours • Monday-Sunday, 4 p.m.–2 a.m.
Details • Mondays are Pub Quiz night; Wednesdays are Bacon Night. A monthly book swap is held the first Thursday of the month. Patrons can bring, books, magazines and other printed materials to trade. No money exchanged.