Montana Brewing Co. unveils new look

2012-04-11T16:30:00Z 2012-04-11T21:45:24Z Montana Brewing Co. unveils new lookBy JAN FALSTAD jfalstad@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Competition is a spicy sauce that can kick-start plans to remodel.

Montana Brewing Co. owner and general manager Sean Graves said that was the reason for the recent upgrade at the downtown restaurant at 113 N. Broadway.

"Basically, we totally gutted the place in 2½ weeks. We had a really good crew of people and really good organizational plan," he said.

The Brew Pub, as it is generally called, opened Dec. 4, 1994, and was the state's first business that brewed and served beer on site since that industry died off in the 1970s.

"Part of our plan was to really step up our game and stay the best," Graves said.

The brown paper covering the windows came down Wednesday afternoon. At 4 p.m., the restaurant officially re-opened.

Work included replacing the flooring, the tables, new bathroom decor and swapping the wood-fired oven for a brick-covered gas oven, even though wood-fired ovens produce tasty flatbreads.

"It's more dangerous to use in an old downtown building," Graves said.

The wood bar was replaced with a concrete bar and wall art includes nearly a dozen giant black-and-white photos depicting Billings in the 1920s to the 1950s.

Jones Construction of Billings had 20 to 30 people working in the restaurant at the remodeling peak and they were practically tripping over each other, Graves said.

Jerry Jones said all 15 subcontractors were local companies, including Woodco Case Works and The Ringing Anvil Forge for the decorative ironwork.

To meet the tight deadline, some workers worked at night and used prefabricated elements as much as possible, including the bar.

"They spent a lot of money," Jones said. "They literally gutted it in three days and then in the next 10 days we put it all back together."

Graves and his partner, Mike Schmechel, did not disclose their remodeling costs.

The restaurant's 100 employees were given the choice to work construction or to collect short-term unemployment benefits, he said.

The Brew Pub was last remodeled in 1994 and Graves said they wanted to step up their game to stay the best.

"We've maintained a really good business," he said. "We're the only place currently serving food and open to 2 a.m."

That advantage will stick.

State law has hemmed in the Broadway pub's competition to short operating hours from 4 to 8 p.m., and limits on the number of beers one customer may consume.

Graves and Schmechel own the Brew Pub and Hooligan's Sports Bar next door, and in February 2011 they opened Vig Alehouse & Casino at 501 Hilltop Road in the Heights.

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