Ty Burrell: Actor, Restaurateur, Problem-Solver

Bar-X location.

Most people know Ty Burrell as Phil on the wildly popular sitcom “Modern Family.” However, the actor has been busy doing more than entertaining on-screen — Ty Burrell has revamped, launched, and maintained some of the most popular bars and restaurants in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

From Bar-X, a historical prohibition-era bar, to long-standing The Cotton Bottom Inn, Burrell’s investment in the food and beverage industry of Utah has made a splash. However, it hasn’t always been easy, this is the origin story behind Ty Burrell’s transition from actor to successful Utah restaurateur.

From Actor to Restauranteur

In 2008, one of Burrell’s co-owners and member of his extended family, Jeff Bernard, brought something to the actor’s attention that launched his transition from television to restaurants — Salt Lake City’s infamously strict liquor laws were changing, and there wasn’t a craft cocktail bar taking advantage of this new-found leniency. 

Historically, Utah has been an extremely difficult place to start a business that incorporates alcohol due to unique and oftentimes strict rules. Perhaps most famously, the state’s “Zion Curtain” requires alcoholic beverages to be prepared behind a curtain. Therefore, any change to the liquor laws within the state that result in an easier alternative to the buying and selling of alcohol is big news. 

The specific changes made that tilted legislation in Burrell’s favor were enacted in 2009. This included the elimination of partitions for existing restaurants as well as bars and clubs no longer being required to charge a cover or membership fee to gain access. All these changes make the purchase of alcohol more accessible to both tourists and locals. 

Burrell and his co-owners didn’t exactly launch from the ground up; however, they revamped Bar-X. Bar-X originally opened in 1933 with a legendary opening story of launching the day prohibition was repealed. Not only did the team take on this project, but they also parlayed the success of the revamped bar into Beer Bar, located directly next door as well as taking over The Eating Establishment and The Cotton Bottom Inn — two other existing establishments with historical significance in the area. 

The ‘Tip Your Server’ Campaign

Like many restaurateurs during the 2020 pandemic, Burrell faced the burden of closing his businesses and ensuring his staff was taken care of during such unprecedented times. In fact, during his spring 2020 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, the actor expressed fear that many establishments may not make it out of the crisis at all.

Energized by the drive to do something to help restaurant workers throughout the Salt Lake area, Burrell launched the “Tip Your Server” campaign that would provide $2,000 grants to employees of Salt Lake City restaurants and bars faced with layoffs due to the pandemic. To kick off the campaign, Burrell and his wife Holly contributed $100,000 of their own money to the cause. Members of the public were then able to make contributions to servers and restaurant workers in the area to supplement the loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in over $650,000 raised.

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