A well-known bar and casino in Bigfork housed in the old Swan River School has reopened under new management.
The Montana Club is now called the Buffalo Saloon and Casino and is housing a bar and brick-and mortar-restaurant for Porteus BBQ. The new owners are also remodeling some apartments in the basement that will be rented out on AirBnb. The new owners are Bob and Kim Warren, Mike Kiel, and Jack and Carol Petty.
The building was constructed in 1922 as a schoolhouse and served as such for decades. In 2003, it was moved to near the intersection of Montana Highway 35 and Montana Highway 83 just north of Bigfork and turned into a casino. In 2017, it was put up for sale.
Bob Warren, who works in construction, had been looking for an investment for a few years when his brother-in-law told him the old Montana Club was up for sale. Warren said he wasn’t interested in buying a bar, but later, when the price dropped a bit, he took a second look. In March, the Warrens, along with Kiel and the Pettys, closed on the building. Since then, they’ve been feverishly remodeling it.
“I never had any dreams of being in the bar or restaurant business, but this just sort of fell in our laps,” Warren said.
Soon after the remodel began, Warren decided to reach out to the owners of Porteus BBQ, a catering and food truck business, to see if they were interested in renting space for a brick-and-mortar restaurant. They agreed after some convincing, and now they’re serving up lunch and dinner seven days a week. Warren said the barbecue is a welcome addition to the south end of the valley.
On Oct. 26, the bar and restaurant opened for business. Since then, both have been serving a steady stream of happy patrons. Warren said it’s a good sign of things to come. Meanwhile, the owners are working on refurbishing a number of apartments downstairs that will be rented out as well as a commercial space. Warren said he hopes to have both spaces up for rent in either late winter or early spring.
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