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The Wine Cellar, one of the only jazz and blues clubs in Ogden, is a basement bar started by Walter “Mitch” Mitchell eight years ago.
“I always, in my own little way, wanted my own place,” Mitchell said. “I talked about it, dreamed about it for years.”
Mitchell said he had his eye on the restaurant above where the Wine Cellar is located now, but it had already been bought out by someone else.
“Unbeknownst to a lot of people, this place was downstairs,” Mitchell said. “It had been closed for 12-15 years, and nobody had been down here. So I came down here and looked at it, and it was under, like, 12 years of dust and dirt and mold and mildew. The ceiling was caving in and the whole nine yards. And I was like, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’”
Mitchell, his family and a few close friends cleaned up the basement in a six-month process and opened it up in April of 2004.
Mitchell said everything is running well now, and he never really feels like it is a job. He said it is his passion and has received a lot of support.
Mitchell said the Wine Cellar has no employees, just people who like jazz and blues and want to help the place out. Everybody who works at the Wine Cellar learns how to do everything from bartending to cooking.
“This April will give us nine years of being open,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to do jazz and blues and old Motown. I was looking for a place . . . where you could come with no hassle.”
Ross Salazar, a patron and DJ at the Wine Cellar, said the Wine Cellar has accomplished that.
“The atmosphere, that’s what I like about it,” he said. “I like the atmosphere and the setting, and, of course, the owner, Mitch, and his wife.”
Salazar said the people who frequent the Wine Cellar also help make the atmosphere. He said everyone is friendly.
“I’ve never had any problems here,” Salazar said. “You come down here, and people are always willing to have a great time and meet other people and mingle and dance, and everyone leaves happy.”
The bar is set up with a stage and a pool area, as well as a back area with tables. Mitchell said each section has its own kind of life. He said the back area is for people who want to sit down and have a conversation, while the front seating is for those who are there for the music, and the pool area gets a crowd all its own.
Kesha Day, who started as a patron and then began working at the Wine Cellar, said her favorite thing about the place is the people who come.
“There is a variety that comes in,” Day said. “It’s not all older people, like people think because it’s a jazz and blues bar. It’s a variety. It’s just different people all the time, all walks of life.”
Mitchell said he wants to treat all of his customers like family, and has even printed up reservation tags for some tables, so his regulars can always have their seats.
“If I call in and I say, ‘Mitch, can I have my table for the night?’, he’ll put our name tag out,” said Doug Lucero, Mitchell’s friend and patron.
Lucero said he likes to come to the Wine Cellar because it never feels too crowded. He said that, even when there is a band and a lot of people, he can still enjoy sitting at his table.
“As far as (being a) patron is concerned, I’m a big loyal fan,” Lucero said. “I always have been. And I love jazz music anyway — jazz and blues — and this is the only jazz and blues place north of Salt Lake.”
The Wine Cellar is decorated with donated art and other artifacts people want to be part of the bar. Mitchell said he remembers where everything came from and it means a lot to him to have the stuff there.
Lucero said another reason he likes coming to the Wine Cellar is the unique talent Mitchell brings in to liven everything up.
“Our oldest entertainer is Mr. McQueen,” Mitchell said. “Joe McQueen is getting ready to turn 94, and he generally plays the first Friday of every month.”
Mitchell said he brings in a bunch of different musicians and bands, but that he also is open to playing other music, such as music from Salazar, who was the DJ for the bar’s Mardi Gras party.
“I would recommend it to be a good college hangout,” Salazar said
Day agreed that the Wine Cellar is great for college students because it serves good food for cheap. Mitchell said college students could benefit from the jazz and blues scene. He said he has even helped some students taking a jazz class at Weber State University meet some musicians.
“And the truth of the matter is,” Mitchell said, “I’m just an old man living out a dream.”