The Paper Moon, a one-of-a-kind bar in Salt Lake City

Story and slideshow by CARSON HUISKAMP

Take a personal tour of the Paper Moon bar.

There it stood. A rainbow flag painted across the front entrance of the Paper Moon for guests to see.

When it opened in December 1993, there was no such thing as a gay bar, or a bar that had a target audience of mainly the lesbian community in Utah.

Paper Moon co-owner Rhonda Wilson attributed this to two things.

“I do believe it has a lot to do with the liquor laws and the strong standing of the Mormon Church here,” she said.

It is true that Utah has some of the strangest, most strict liquor laws in the entire country. Utah also has one of the most religious populations in the country, with 62.2 percent of the state identifying with the LDS church. But facts like these don’t mean that the entire state is conservative.

In fact the number of people coming out in the LGBT community has boomed in the last quarter century, with an estimated 4 million openly gay people in the US, according to one expert.

According to statistics from Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, anywhere between 4 and 10 percent of  the population is LGBT. That estimate puts the Salt Lake Valley at roughly 48,000-120,000 LGBT individuals currently.

Also, according to the Advocate, a gay and lesbian news magazine, Salt Lake City is one of the most welcoming LGBT cities in the country.

“While those unfamiliar with the Beehive State are likely to conjure images of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, far less-oppressive-than-it-used-to-be Salt Lake City has earned its queer cred,” said Matthew Breen in an article published by the Advocate.

Many people will ask, what has changed in Salt Lake City to make it so much friendlier for the LGBT community?

The answer is the social scene.

The Paper Moon, which is located on State Street and 3737 South, plays host to one of the most unique bars in Utah. In a sense, it truly is one of a kind.

“The history of the club is in December [2012] we will be 19 years old,” Wilson said.

“We really are the only lesbian club in the state of Utah,” she said.

When the Paper Moon first opened, the owner didn’t exactly know what the reception would be for the club. But after some thought she went ahead and decided to open anyway.

“The owner herself was lesbian, and she felt the lesbian community needed somewhere to go,” Wilson said. “There were all these gay clubs at the time popping up …, so she felt the girls would like somewhere to go also.”

What really makes the Paper Moon unique is the number of regulars who come to the bar to break away from their everyday lives and join the LGBT community at night.

“I’d say at least 50 percent of the people who come here are regulars,” said Alicia, who asked that her last name not be used in the story.

People may ask, what does the Paper Moon offer that other bars do not? And the answer is simple — fun atmosphere with a little bit of spice and originality for the women who socialize at the venue.

To the right of the entrance, a bar sign of two women kissing shows what this scene is all about.

Inside the bar women dance, sing and play pool with one another as they intermingle without the worry of what others may think.

On Mondays starting at 8:30 p.m., the bar holds its weekly White Trash Texas Holdem’ Tournament.

Tuesday and Thursday nights provide a more vibrant feel to the club, as women can sing and dance under the disco lights for Karaoke night. Or, if they are feeling a little more seductive, a stripper pole and cage are located on the stage.

Free pool is offered every Wednesday for those who want to relax.

Finally, Friday and Saturday nights provide the finale of the week for customers, as local DJs provide the Top 40 DJ House Party Music event all night long for those at the Paper Moon.

All these events held at the Paper Moon each and every week give customers a reason to come back.

“I just think it is a great place for lesbians to come together and be themselves honestly. A lot of times we are singled out and looked upon differently, so I think it’s a great place to come to and be ourselves and be gay,” Alicia said.