Blue Iguana now open after travails
February 5, 2010
After a rush delivery of equipment, opening a week earlier than scheduled, hosting 50 Cent and Danny Trejo during Sundance , scoring the last liquor license available for Park City, filing insurance claims for an operation-stopping flood at his Salt Lake location that caused him to miss out on his biggest weekend of the year, Daniel Darger is glad Sundance is over.
Owner of the Blue Iguana, Darger said he had several dreams and nightmares come true the last two weeks of January.
The first was moving into 628 Park Avenue. Darger said he fell in love with the building while eating at the Mercato Mediterraneo some years ago.
"I looked around and said, ‘This would be sweet,’" he remembered.
When it was Bueno Vita he came several times and loved the patio. He said he’d have loved a patio like that at his Salt Lake City Blue Iguana.
"I always thought, ‘That would be my ideal place if I had my choice of anywhere in town,’" he said.
Recommended Stories For You
The building has character. The oldest end has historical significance and survived the Great Fire of 1898. The glass roof over the added second floor contributes to the ambiance.
"How many places look like this?" he said.
Then last year he got the lease. The building had sat vacant for several months and he struck a deal with the landlords. His Salt Lake restaurant has been "maxed out" for some time, he said. They can’t fit any more chairs in or serve customers any faster. Business hit a plateau and he had long been thinking of opening in Park City if he could just get the right location.
He planned to open Feb. 1 after the Sundance Film Festival and the OutdoorRetailer Winter Market the biggest weekend of the year for the Salt Lake restaurant.
Then Jan. 8 the Salt Lake location flooded, forcing it to close and it’s still closed. After spending days filling out insurance forms to make up for lost business including his employee’s wages, it became clear he’d need to open in Park City early to keep them working.
"I said, ‘Let’s get this puppy going,’" Darger explained. "Our A-Team knows how to run a place and this can be a demanding market."
So in less than 30 days, the staff of the Blue Iguana made 628 Park Ave. their own. Alexis Todd Darger designed the interior to make it feel welcoming, authentic and comfortable.
"It has a warmness, a personal touch," Daniel Darger said.
It was important to them that it didn’t look corporate or "stamped out," he said.
That’s why this second location will never lead to a chain or franchising. Darger believes his formula for success precludes it. Rule No. 1 is to serve the same quality food as developed at the Red Iguana the restaurant in West Salt Lake that inspired the Blue Iguana and perfected by his own chefs.
"My partner and I said, ‘This is so good we could make a fortune selling it out of an outhouse,’" Darger remembers.
Rule No. 2 is to take care of the staff. Every employee in Salt Lake has been with the company at least five years, and several have been with them from the beginning a decade ago.
"When you care about them, they care about you," he said.
Once the other location is repaired, Darger will begin hiring for the Park City restaurant.
Sundance was slow, he said, but that was all right. A few guests were able to watch 50 Cent and Trejo on a live movie set while they enjoyed their food.
628 Park Avenue
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.