OGDEN -- Customers were making their way up the long staircase, trickling onto the large rooftop patio, and Jared Allen was behind the small bar in the corner, hurriedly making final preparations for the long night ahead.
He popped the pour spout off an empty bottle of Jim Beam and affixed it to a fresh bottle. A dash of bourbon aroma came into the breeze as he spoke. Over his right shoulder, the mountains hulked over the valley, and a Friday-night bustle could be seen below on 25th Street. That, in essence, was why Allen was there.
Tired of seeing locals go to Salt Lake City or other destinations for an upscale nightlife experience, Allen, one of the owners of the new bar Alleged, at 205 25th St., is trying to lead a renaissance of downtown Ogden.
"If you look at what Ogden's trying to do, it's trying to pattern itself after Boulder (Colo.), after Denver," Allen said. "But it felt like we were missing something in the nightlife component. Because in terms of outdoor sports, we've got them beat, hands down."
Allen has visions of grandeur for downtown Ogden and sees it becoming a hot destination for locals and visitors alike. Standing on the rooftop of Alleged, the sun hanging in the sky over Union Station a block away, one would be unlikely to call those visions misplaced. Already, the bar has received an overwhelmingly positive reception from patrons, and Allen is eager to pump whatever success the bar ultimately yields back into the city.
"We've had a lot of people asking us, 'Oh, when are you going to open one in Park City? When are you going to open one in Salt Lake?'" said Allen, who describes himself as a real estate investor first, bar owner second. "But we're not going to open another bar. What we're going to do is open more businesses in Ogden and fill more needs that Ogden has. We're more dedicated to Ogden than we are to the bar industry."
Allen's dedication to Ogden became clear as he described the history of the city and of the building housing his bar. Back when Ogden had been an outlaw town, and bootlegging, gambling and prostitution were rampant, Allen explained, the building used to be Ogden's most famous brothel, Rose Rooms. To honor that history, specialty cocktails are named after madams who used to run the brothel, the women who used to work there and other colorful characters from 25th Street's past.
The cover of Alleged's drink menu tells it like this: "Here we pay homage to the rich and notorious history of not just our building, but 25th Street as a whole ... Relax, and enjoy the views, as we celebrate our sordid past and work to restore our future."
Adding another historical highlight to the bar, the tables are made from old brothel doors, and the restrooms are designed to be reminiscent of that period in the building's history.
"25th Street has a pretty incredible history, and not a lot of places can say the same thing, so we figured it would be good to share that history with people," Allen said. "It makes Ogden more interesting to share that history."
The path here, from the genesis of the idea to build the bar, to the fruition of that idea, was fraught with obstacles. Not the least of which was Allen's wife's resistance to moving to Ogden. Allen knew of the city's charms but, he said, his wife wasn't eager to move to a city whose in-state reputation is often negative. Just as he eventually was able to change his wife's mind, he's hoping others give downtown Ogden a second chance, too, after spending time at his bar.
"I couldn't get her to come here until I said anytime we're going on a date, let's go to Ogden instead of Salt Lake," he said. "I got her hooked on Ogden and all the restaurants here. Finally, she said we could live here."
Qualifying for a liquor license and making sure the bar would not violate any city ordinances also proved difficult. Allen said he bought the bar in August 2011 but didn't get approved to serve liquor until this past April, after Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell went to bat for the bar in front of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The next month, Alleged opened.
"In the state of Utah, you're throwing money at a black hole, and there's no guarantee they're going to let you open," Allen said. "So it was kind of scary, but we worked really hard and had a lot of people step up for us, the city of Ogden being one of them."
For Jared's brother, Mike Allen, who is a co-owner of the bar, opening Alleged was about bringing some diversity to a city lacking in classy nightlife options.
"Not to say (the other bars) are bad, but they really weren't the style of bars we were looking for," said Mike Allen, while pouring drinks from behind the indoor bar on Alleged's lower level. "We found ourselves going to Salt Lake a lot, and it's one of those things where we'd much rather see our money stay here in the community and draw people to 25th Street."
Though Alleged is distinctly Ogden, the inspiration for the bar came from a town nestled near the Rocky Mountains. Jared Allen, who is from Brigham City, had been living in Denver before moving back to Utah, and the Mile-High City offered much in the way of nightlife. But it was the city's rooftop bars that caught his attention, and he knew something similar would be well-received in downtown Ogden, with its famous mountain views and old-style architecture.
The public, Allen said, has responded to Alleged's unique style. Though the bar is still building a customer base, word of mouth has moved quickly, and the bar's reputation is beginning to spread.
"I grew up in Georgia, so this is more what I'm used to," said Brooke Ingram, a local resident who was sipping a drink on the rooftop. "I know there's a lot of people in Ogden who would really appreciate it."