Petters: Blue Gene’s and the Power of Representation


Blue Gene’s Bar. (Photo courtesy of Blue Gene’s Bar)

By Keegan Petters, Opinion Writer, Copy Editor


“The bar itself was just as inviting as Sequoia was,” said University of Utah student Jacob Martin, after his first experience at the neighborhood bar Blue Gene’s. “The employees were something that stuck out to me. They had a healthy banter with Sequoia, as you would with friends. It felt as though they weren’t burdened by Sequoia being there.”

Since its creation in 2021, Blue Gene’s has showcased performances from various queer talent, making sure to include everyone in their setting. From brunches to weekly karaoke nights, these events are often hosted by the drag queen Sequoia. One of the most celebrated drag queens in Salt Lake City, Sequoia’s passion and adoration for her craft always shows in her work — I remember my first experience at an event of hers. My friend described a bar they found after their show at the Urban Lounge that hosts a weekly drag karaoke event and I was enraptured to hear about another scene where queer art was being celebrated and became eager to attend.

Walking into Blue Gene’s, I felt instantly welcomed by Sequoia. Her performance, discourse with the audience and overall rhetoric made me feel welcome. As a brilliant and talented drag queen, Sequoia created an atmosphere of community. Whether they were strangers or not, each audience member felt comfortable being there. Especially given today’s political environment, providing inclusive entertainment and representation matters. Events like drag shows provide safe settings for groups to come together. For those unfamiliar with the art form, it allows them space to learn about and show their support for it.

Blue Gene’s: History and Importance

Previously known as the restaurant Rye from 2014-21, Blue Gene’s remodeled its space into a mid-century modern bar that could complement the music venue right next to them: the Urban Lounge.

“Blue Gene’s is now a fantastic bar that serves quality drinks, provides a comfortable space to have a drink before or after a concert, as well as now hosting unique events that keep us connected with our community,” said Alisha Archibald, the community marketing manager for S&S Presents, who represents Blue Gene’s.

After the great success of their opening karaoke night with Alex Blocher, they decided to create a second karaoke event.

Having connections with the masterfully gifted drag community, Blue Gene’s had Sequoia as their first choice for the event. She had previously worked with Blue Gene’s for her “High Waisted” brunch events starting in late 2021. When she agreed, the event “Belt It!” was established. Now, Wednesday evenings garner some of the most attention. “Belt It!” has turned Blue Gene’s into a bar that people want to frequent. Personally, the event captivated my inclination for the bar and motivates my frequent participation in karaoke night.

Unfortunately, backlash against the drag community is far too common. Just recently, in Salt Lake City, members of the Proud Boys organization terrorized the Tea Zaanti shop when they hosted an all-ages drag event. When interviewing Archibald, I asked about the backlash and if they feel this type of harassment could get directed to Blue Gene’s.

“We sincerely hope not,” Archibald said. “We provide security at our space and do everything we can to foster a safe environment. If we can take anything from such attacks at other clubs and bars in the country, it’s that the LGBTQ+ and art communities persist despite all attempts to diminish them.”

This indomitable spirit is important for the persistence of venues like Blue Gene’s. Now is the most important time to show support for drag and LGBTQ+ communities. It is a continual effort, and just the smallest actions (including a drag-themed karaoke night) create a lasting impact. While Blue Gene’s does not advertise itself as a bar for any specific sexuality, its regulars are benefitted by being exposed to a diverse array of events and people at the bar. I admire the bar’s effort to create a diverse and welcoming space. Their influence will provide a gateway for other businesses in Salt Lake City to diversify and become similar safe spaces in the community.


Starting her journey with drag in New York City around four years ago, Sequoia has become an extremely influential drag queen to many. I had the honor to interview her regarding her upbringing and influence on Blue Gene’s. After attending the U, Sequoia fell in love with drag when viewing a Shakespeare-themed episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“I like makeup,” she said. “I like clothing and expressing myself through that. I love performing. I love making people laugh and hosting things.”

Her natural characteristics are represented within her work. Charismatically charming and exceptionally talented, Sequoia is a staple in Salt Lake City drag.

For years, Sequoia has produced numerous shows that showcase talent, entertainment and a welcoming atmosphere for anyone interested in drag to attend. Her role within Blue Gene’s began in September of 2021, and has rapidly increased from her first event. Sequoia now hosts a weekly karaoke event, as well as performs every Friday after a watch-a-long of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“Blue Gene’s is an inclusive space,” Sequoia said. “As long as you’re a person with a beating heart and a valid ID, you can come in, feel safe, and that’s sort of the point.”

That quote resonated with me, as I became familiar with Blue Gene’s for that very reason. I also asked Sequoia about the recent rise of threats against drag performers and events.

“The biggest thing that anyone can do is continue to embolden the queer culture, the people who need that support,” she said. “Because if you are a person who is an ally and you have a kid, or you’ve taken your mom or your grandma or your baby to a drag show, you know what that feels like and what that space is like, and how magical it can really be. And how easy and fun it actually is.”

This is true for allied communities in supporting such art. The influence of simply attending presents a powerful counterargument to violent attacks against the drag community. Support, especially in Salt Lake City, allows the events to thrive and represent queer art. Being the highlight drag queen of Blue Gene’s, Sequoia will become the producer for more drag events within the bar and continue to spread her love for drag throughout Salt Lake City.

Sequoia. (Photo courtesy of Blue Gene’s Bar)

LGBTQ+ Representation

As Martin said, referring to Blue Gene’s, “I think that this is probably one of the safest spaces for queer venues.” While Blue Gene’s doesn’t affiliate itself as a “straight” or “gay” bar, its representation of queer events has made the establishment a welcoming space for all communities. Again, having safe and secure spaces for such entertainment is indispensable.

While the U university provides counseling and safe spaces for its LGBTQ+ population, it is paramount to showcase more queer art. Representation matters for these students. Whether in media or in the community, representing LGBTQ+ art and people has a lasting impact for generations. It influences one’s individuality and courage to accept who they are. For ally students or community members searching for ways to support LGBTQ+ communities, support not just drag events but much more. In a time with so much divisiveness, unity and representation may decrease the stigmatization and oppression of LGBTQ+ communities.

I praise Blue Gene’s and Sequoia for their work in incorporating queer talent and providing a safe space for them to thrive. They have helped expose people to a beautiful art that celebrates marginalized communities. They work to turn harmful and false rhetoric on its head. I hope other businesses take after the influence of Blue Gene’s to diversify their audience and entertainment. All are welcome at Blue Gene’s, and more should visit to recognize the significance they have in Salt Lake City.


For inquiries on Sequoia’s future events, contact [email protected] or visit her on social media @theonlysequoia. Blue Gene’s is located at 239 S 500 E Salt Lake City, UT and is open nightly from 5 p.m to 2 a.m.


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