A five-year-old downtown restaurant, Commons 1882, held its last service on Sunday, and owner and employees are spending the next month preparing to reopen in a location on the Billings' West End.
The new location will be at 115 Shiloh Suite 5 in the Shiloh Commons, and owner Greg Oliphant is aiming for a reopening date of Aug. 12. Commons 1882 opened in 2014 at 404 N. 30th St. Since then the business has done fairly well, but Oliphant thinks the move can double or triple his business.
"West Billings is just growing rapidly there are just more and more people that are living out there so it just gets us closer to where the people are," he said.
The location will be bigger, with a more open layout, expanded hours and menu items, he said.
“Our current kitchen in this location (is) maxed out space-wise,” Oliphant said.
The menu will remain the same, except for some additions. With the new space Oliphant plans on adding personal pan, gourmet pizzas and expanding on a tapas menu.
Also adding to the current menu of wine, craft beer, and cocktails, Oliphant is hoping the additional space will allow the restaurant to expand their list of high-end specialty cocktails.
“Half of (the bar) opens from 4 to 10 and it’s a specialty bar with high end cocktails, martini, and wine” Oliphant said.
The new location will extend its hours, too. The restaurant will service lunch and dinner every day and brunch on weekends.
With more space and business hours Oliphant is estimating he’ll need to hire about 40 to 50 more employees. All the current employees will also make the move, Oliphant said.
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Oliphant began flirting with the idea of moving to the West End about two years ago. Now the move coincides with the end of his five-year lease, and he’s since tied the knot to move into Shiloh Commons.
The current Commons building is owned by Mary Ann Andrews. She and her husband, Andrew G. Andrews, opened George Henry’s Restaurant in the building in 1980. George Henry’s Restaurant operated there for more than 30 years.
George Henry's closed in 2009 and then reopened three years later as Benson’s Restaurant. The short-lived restaurant folded the next summer, and in 2014 Commons 1882 moved in.
A large “For Rent” sign is tacked to the side of the building, and for the time being it’s unclear what will happen to the historic house-turned-restaurant.
The name Commons 1882 will remain the same, although the meaning behind it has changed slightly. The name initially came from the date that the house was built.
The original house, which has been added to several times over the past 100 years, was constructed by Richard Crowe seven years before Montana gained statehood in 1889. The Crowe family occupied the house until the 1980s when George Henry’s took over.
Now, Commons coincidentally shares a name with the new location in the Shiloh Commons. But the '1882' suddenly seemed out of place until Oliphant realized that Billings was founded in 1882.
Though excited for the new location Oliphant said the move will be bittersweet.
"We had a great run and made a lot of friends," he said. "We love downtown Billings and we don't want anyone to think we're moving 'cause of (it)."