Granary restaurant sold, undergoing big changes

2014-07-09T00:30:00Z 2014-09-12T14:26:05Z Granary restaurant sold, undergoing big changesBy ERIK OLSON The Billings Gazette

The iconic Granary restaurant in Billings has a new owner, a new focus and — within the next month — a new name.

Jim Bos and his son, Kevin Bos, bought the restaurant at 1500 Poly Drive last week from a partnership led by Aaron Sparboe. It closed July 1 for renovations and will reopen next month as Bistecca at the Granary, serving Italian and American food. “Bistecca” is Italian for steak.

The new owners plan to expand the bar, shrink the dining area and add a tap room with 20 beers, mostly local and regional microbrews.

“It’s exciting. We hope that we do it justice. We’re going to work extremely hard to make it right and to make it work,” said Jim Bos, 69, a Billings architect affiliated with restaurants in Bozeman, Helena and Kalispell.

The deal closed last week after about six months of talks. Bos did not disclose the price.

Built in 1935, the restaurant was originally the milling department for Billings Polytechnic Institute, now Rocky Mountain College. It was vacant for decades before opening as a restaurant in 1976.

The Granary had last closed in 2004 when Sparboe and John Scott bought the business and ordered a major, six-month renovation. It’s been known as a high-end steak and seafood eatery, with a bar, upstairs banquet hall and basement meeting area.

“There was a little angst out there with some people. Are we going to totally throw away the history? We’re not. We’re going to respect it. We’re going to respect the previous owners,” Bos said.

The Granary had 33 employees when it closed. Bos said he will try to hire back most of them. The new restaurant will have 45 total employees, he said. Kevin Bos is leaving his job as an appraiser to be general manager.

Popular items, such as the nachos, will remain on the menu, Bos said. Although executive chef Alan Sparboe, Aaron Sparboe’s brother, isn’t staying, the restaurant will still serve quality American food, Bos said.

But the atmosphere will be more casual. The tablecloths are out. The larger bar and tap room will encourage more movement and interaction among customers, Bos said. The Bistecca at the Granary will have much in common with microbreweries, which have helped transform downtown Billings into a more attractive destination spot.

“The younger generation, I think, has really embraced the microbrewery scene,” Bos said, adding, “We’re trying to go a bit more casual. People really respond. They like to eat in your bar, lounges.”

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