SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A Salt Lake City institution for more than two decades, Brewvies Cinema Pub on 677 South and 200 West had built an audience for its unique business model; a movie theatre that also served food and drinks.
Unfortunately, what set Brewvies apart as the lone such operation in the state served as a double whammy when both the movie and eatery/bar industries were devastated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the pandemic began to grip the nation in Spring 2020, Brewvies manager Andy Murphy remembers the unsettling feeling of what lay ahead.
“That was a weird time because we didn’t know. Everything was still uncertain,” Murphy recalls to ABC4. “We thought maybe it was going to be for a week or something. We weren’t really sure what we were up against.”
What was hoped to be a week-long break turned into a 16-month stretch with the doors shuttered and the big screens blank. The iconic theatre and pub combo was last open for business on March 13, 2020. Murphy, who has been working at Brewvies since 2005, says it was the first closing of the day-to-day operations at the theatre since it opened in 1997.
Now, as the pandemic seems to be waning and the state continues its vaccination efforts, Brewvies plans on throwing open the doors, firing up the grill and lighting up its two screens on Thursday to begin showing the latest installment in the Fast and Furious series.
After more than a year away from serving his customers, Murphy is looking forward to seeing the newly refurbished seats at the theatre filled with hungry and thirsty moviegoers.
“The base of Brewvies is like a family and friends type of customer base. It got to the point where we knew everybody’s name that was coming in the door,” he explains. “And those are the same people who’ve been kind of clamoring to get back in. A lot of those people don’t even see movies, they just kind of come in and hang with us.”
While Murphy and his staff have been unable to do their typical jobs during their time off, which he has mostly been a result of the lack of new releases coming out of Hollywood, they’ve been taking advantage of the dead period in other ways. The Salt Lake City location has been completely remodeled, with brand new paint on the walls and new padding and fabric on the original seats, which Murphy says are now “quite comfy.”
The visual appeal won’t be the only change at Brewvies, the menu and beverage offerings have also been revamped. Murphy explains that the kitchen will have a renewed focus on making everything fresh and by hand, including the pizza dough, French fries, and hamburger patties. As far as drinks go, the beer menu will be almost entirely sourced by local craft beer breweries with liquor from local distilleries as well.
While Murphy realizes that staying at home and streaming a movie has become even more popular during the pandemic, he also feels that for certain films, nothing will be able to top the big-screen experience. Fast and Furious 9, the theatre’s re-opening feature, is a great example of that in his mind.
“I think that’s a good movie for Brewvies because it’s just fun, it’s a good beer drinking movie. You can get up and go orders and probably won’t miss a whole lot,” he laughs. “I know that Netflix is a very popular option for people to see movies right now but a movie like Fast and Furious 9 it is a theater movie. You want to see all that action on the big screen with the big audio system and everything blaring at you.”
Not only will Brewvies be returning to show summer blockbusters, but the kitschy little events that have made the place as memorable as its signature chili mayo fry sauce will be making a comeback as well. Front Row Film Roast, in which local comedians roast a classic movie from the seats is set to reappear, as well as Wednesday night’s Kung Fu Theatre. That, along with a restocking of the cinema pub’s collectable t-shirts is hoped to draw the audience back after an extended separation.
Murphy is hopeful that the community will come out in waves to welcome Brewvies, which also has a location in Ogden, back to business. The theatre attempted a comeback last fall, which didn’t work out, and is banking on things sticking this time around.
“There is a need for some support from the community because we have a window here open and have everything set to go. We really do need people to come out and visit us because, you know, we can’t kind of keep going with little business. We need to be a hit.”