By the end of November, the sign in front of the downtown Billings bus station will change, with just a little reorganization, but it will mark the start of a far different business.
As the big sign at 2502 First Ave. N., changes from BUS to PUB, the building that now houses the Jefferson Lines will become The Pub Station, a 500-person concert and entertainment venue operated by 11:11 Presents.
“It provides an environment that people want,” said Ann Kosempa, who co-owns 11:11 Presents with her husband, Sean Lynch. “I know the Billings community is very supportive of live entertainment and they deserve to enjoy the environment it’s in, too.”
For years, the 5,400-square-foot building was home to the Greyhound bus station. Jefferson Lines began operating there in May 2013, with 10 of its buses making daily stops, along with a handful of Black Hills Stage Lines buses on their way to Denver.
Lynch said The Pub Station will likely be open six nights a week and feature a mix of local, regional and national acts. It will also serve wine and beer, including from local breweries, and they’re working on having an on-site food truck.
“The needs have been partially filled at other places in town,” he said. “This lets us put it all together into one venue.”
Through 11:11 Presents, Lynch and Kosempa have produced hundreds of shows for venues across Billings and the new venture will allow them to produce shows there and other venues including the Babcock Theatre, which Lynch manages.
It’s a place they want both the public and the performers to enjoy spending time.
“We want it to be comfortable with a focus on sound and
lighting,” Lynch said. “We want to appease the artists and the crowd.”
The plan, using a recently acquired beer and wine license that does not include a gambling attachment, is to have several dozen beers on tap.
However, alcohol won’t be the main focus of the business.
“We’re a venue with a taproom,” Kosempa said. “We’re not a bar with music.”
The building spent months on the market before Mike Mathew and his wife, Kay Foster, purchased it from Greyhound Lines Inc.
For now, the bus station building remains in operation. Kevin Pursey, marketing director for the Minneapolis-based Jefferson Lines, said in July that they had until Sept. 16 to find a new location.
Pursey did not respond to a request for comment for this story but told a Gazette reporter earlier that Jefferson Lines plans to stay in Billings.
Mathew said Lynch will continue to manage the Babcock and that the two have a good relationship after years of working together, something with which Lynch agreed.
Lynch and Kosempa plan to start this week with some basic demolition at the building. They will install a bar and a raised platform for bands but don’t plan on many major renovations, other than painting and lighting.
“We’re hanging on to as many pieces of the historical part of the building as we can,” Kosempa said. “We’re not fighting it. If something doesn’t fit, we’ll adapt to that.”
The building saw major renovations about eight years ago, thanks to a federal transportation grant, Lynch said.
The building includes three parking areas used for buses and they’ll be a part of the new business. One bay will be used for acts to park, and a second will be converted to 24 parking spaces available for rent and as VIP parking for events. An outdoor area will probably be used for the food truck and could accommodate other expansions.
Mathew said The Pub Station is a business that makes sense for downtown Billings, especially when shows are combined with its proximity to some of the area’s most popular attractions: craft breweries.
“We’re pretty excited about this concept at this location and we think it has some positive things for keeping people downtown and active,” he said. “It’s next to a bunch of places that have to close at 8 o’clock and having their beer on tap and being right there, they’ll be able to capture some of that.”
The Pub Station will employ fewer than 20 people and house the main offices for 11:11 Presents.
“We hope to have it open by December,” Lynch said. “We have shows booked for then, so we actually have to be open.”