Lynn Katoa and Sean Rawlings opened the Locker Room SLC gay sports bar late last summer for a simple reason: There was a need.

“We both love sports, both grew up playing sports, and there isn’t one here,” Rawlings told the Salt Lake Tribune in a feature last week. “You have a lot of people in our community that are all about the nightclub life, like loud music late at night, [and] dark rooms.”

Katoa, the bar’s co-owner, added that “not everybody in the community likes the nightlife. They want to be able to go sit down, be able to hear one another, have a conversation, eat delicious food and watch whatever game that’s on. It’s still all about having a great time. But we just provide a different environment under that umbrella.”

Gay sports bar have proliferated in the country in the last 15 years, opening in what are considered the traditional gay meccas of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C. An LGBTQ-owned women’s sports bar opened in Portland, Ore., in 2022.

To have one like the Locker Room in red state Utah, albeit in a blue city like Salt Lake City, is really cool and empowering for LGBTQ people. It won a Fabby Award from QSaltLake Magazine, which noted: “They haven’t been open for four minutes, but they already have a following. The location of the former Fiddler’s Elbow is now a gay sports bar. We are here to warn you, though, there are no showers and you can’t run around in your towel.”

With events as diverse as Monday Night Football and European soccer watch parties and drag tailgate brunches, the bar is trying to appeal a wide range of customers. Even in the era of hookup apps and social media, bars still play a vital role in LGBTQ life as a way for people to connect and let their hair down. That is even more needed in places like Salt Lake City and the Locker Room sounds like a place I’d like to spend a few hours watching a game.