Coffee Tavern owners

Matt Ryan, left, and Larry Heafner are the co-owners of the Coffee Tavern, a new coffee shop not yet open downtown at 2828 2nd Ave. N. at the former Neecee's location.

HANNAH POTES/Gazette Staff

A 24-hour coffee shop and music venue is moving into the downtown Billings spot recently vacated by Neecee’s at 2828 Second Ave. N.

The Coffee Tavern will serve nonalcoholic drinks in a bar-like setting, adding a new entertainment spot to the downtown scene for non-drinkers, said owner Larry Heafner, 56 of Billings.

“We’re just trying to get something of a family-type thing, for people who like to go out to the bar but don’t like to drink,” Heafner said Monday.

The Coffee Tavern will be joined by a sister shop, a recording and media production studio owned by Matt Gilg of Billings. Gilg is a minority partner in the coffee shop.

The two businesses are aiming for an early July opening.

The 2,800-square-foot space became available when owner Denice Johnson closed the Neecee’s store this spring after about two decades in businesses and consolidated into her store at Shiloh Crossing on Billings' West End.

Johnson announced the closure in March.

Ron Simon, who owns the building, said both businesses are on three-and-a-half year leases with extension options, and their rent is roughly on par with Neecee’s.

“I wanted a tenant. I wanted them in there. I think it will be good for downtown,” Simon said.

The two businesses are plugging a key gap in downtown Billings on Second Avenue North at the corner of North 29th Street. On the southwest corner of the intersection, the former Wendy’s restaurant remains vacant, and the Billings Bookstore Co-op, This House of Books, is expected to move in this summer.

Gilg, 29 of Billings, said his yet-unnamed business will offer industry standard recording space and equipment to musicians and businesses.

The software engineer has amassed about $50,000 of equipment during the years, which will allow artists to make high-quality recordings.

“There’s so many artists (in the area) that really deserve to have some sort of marketable product,” said Gilg, who toured with a local band about a decade ago.

He added the business will also have a marketing arm for local businesses to record ad spots and other promotional material.

The studio and the Coffee Tavern will work well together, Gilg said. Artists can record music on one side, then sell their tunes inside the coffee shop, he said.

At the Coffee Tavern, acoustic and jazz musicians will be the featured players, said Heafner, who owns a construction company and Hardwood Entertainment, an event promotion firm.

The shop will serve sandwiches, doughnuts and other food, but it will act primarily as a music venue, Heafner said.

The Coffee Tavern will have about a dozen employees, and the recording studio another five.

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Business reporter for The Billings Gazette.