When Port O’ Call, a hugely popular, multi-storied Salt Lake City nightclub, was forced to close its doors in 2009, longtime bartender Bridget Gordon thought it would be difficult to find another job. “Most bars want cute young girls,” she says, and despite still being cute, she was nearing fifty years old but still wanted to stay in the business. It was at that point her husband suggested she open her own place, but it wouldn’t be without its challenges, especially in Salt Lake City’s male-dominated bar scene.
“It was difficult as a woman,” says Gordon, about opening the Green Pig Pub. Getting a small business loan was basically impossible for her, and back then, thirteen years ago, a husband’s name was still required on forms and she wasn’t willing to threaten her husband’s business to start her own. Instead, she mortgaged her house, and when that money ran out, she sold her motorcycle and her car to get the pub open.
The Green Pig Pub opened in 2009, just a short ten weeks after construction began, and it quickly became one of Salt Lake City’s most popular pubs. Gordon credits part of the pub’s success to the fact that she had been in the business and already had a well-established clientele.
“Downtown was curious about what I had come up with and I called in every favor card I had,” she says about her well-attended grand opening. Salt Lake City mayor at the time, Ralph Becker, praised the Green Pig’s commitment to the environment, which is where the “green” part of the pub’s name comes from. The Green Pig was built using recycled materials, utilizes a low-flow water system and passive solar windows, and recycles as much of the pub’s waste as it can.
“Just about everything downtown is male-owned,” says Gordon, and she put a great deal of effort into getting to know other, mostly male, bar owners. “The state of Utah isn’t easy to own a bar in with all the fun rules and restrictions they put on us,” she says, and finds building relationships with other bar owners helpful when maneuvering her way through the business. She does admit it felt like a bit of “boy’s club” at first, but found her way in and enjoys the camaraderie it brings.
When I ask her why she thinks there aren’t more women in ownership positions in the bar and restaurant business, she says the long hours required in the industry are partly to blame.
“Not to stereotype us, but we are still the caretakers, especially in the state of Utah,” and in the beginning, it wasn’t uncommon for her to pull eighteen-hour shifts. She worked every day, seven days a week, and went nine months without a day off. Part of the reason she was able to do this was that her kids were grown and out of the house and she had a supportive husband.
Gordon doesn’t recommend mortgaging your house to start a business, although it worked for her and she was quickly able to get herself out of debt. Every project she has done since has been paid for with cash, which she says is best since you never know what’s going to come your way next, like pandemics and labor shortages. “Staffing is virtually impossible right now, and you don’t know what the future is going to bring,” says Gordon.
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