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Smoked American Barbecue straddles the line between public health and survival

Posted at 5:58 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 22:41:46-04

Before Governor Steve Bullock announced that dine-in food services and other businesses that pose “enhanced health risks” would be restricted or closed, Smoked American Barbecue in Great Falls knew they had to make a change.

Trevor Cavanagh, the owner of Smoked, eliminated dine-in options and ramped up sanitization efforts before almost everyone else. He said that it’s weird to see his restaurant empty, even though business isn’t necessarily decreasing.

“This is a really odd scenario because, for us, barbecue is family, barbecue is community, and barbecue is camaraderie, so it’s people coming in and getting away from normal life,” Cavanagh explained. “We hope that eating some of the best barbecue they’ve ever had and sharing it with friends. I like that noise, I like the music loud, I like the hustle and bustle, it feels really good. Being able to talk to people that we feels like you’re not doing as much business when people aren’t sitting there enjoying their food, so we look at the end of the day and we’re like ‘wow, we did that much business? It didn’t feel like that many people were through.’”

For Trevor and other small business owners around Great Falls, it’s easy to feel unsupported. The consensus is that large corporations are getting help that they don’t necessarily need, when the odds that they will be able to make it through this COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak without much damage done seem to be relatively high. There’s little reason to be optimistic, but that isn’t stopping Smoked.

“I think that people need to protect themselves, and then worry about the financial wellbeing of themselves and others second,” said Cavanagh. however, in order for society to survive, and for those things and luxury items and things that we enjoy to exist when this is all done, it’s important to support not just businesses like ours, but other small businesses as well...I’m not going to speak for the large corporations that can afford to stay open and maybe get government assistance, but I’m going to speak for the small businesses that I feel pretty much unsupported right now.”

When asked why he chose to go ahead with restrictions and health precautions before officially ordered to by the government, Trevor said he relied on his experience. While government officials may have the best interest of their residents in mind, they don’t have the perspective of a restaurant or other small business owner.

While the process behind the counter at Smoked was already very sanitary, according to Trevor, it was in their best interest and their customers’ best interest to boost those sanitation efforts.

“I feel that they (government officials) maybe don’t have the experience in what we’re doing, and probably should have some restaurant insiders giving them guidance on what we’re doing and what the proper protocols are,” he said. “I feel that we have the ability to sanitize and keep the situation safer than even what you can do in the grocery store. We’re gloved, we touch all our food with gloves, we’re sanitized from the second we walk in the door. Our food process has always been safe, we’ve just elevated it one step further. I think customers are going to have a better and safer dining experience than most restaurants than what they’re going to do when they walk in a store.”

Smoked American Barbecue is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. (or sell out).

Click here for a list of other restaurants in our community that are working to stay open by providing take-out, curb-side, and delivery service .

Do you own a small business in the Great Falls Area that has made significant changes in an effort to stay open while complying with government and CDC guidelines during the Coronavirus Outbreak? Has your business been significantly affected? I want to talk to you! Send me an email at

As of Tuesday evening (March 24), there are 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana, with 19 of them reported in Gallatin County.

The number is an increase of five from Tuesday morning. The new cases are: three in Gallatin County; one in Yellowstone County; one in Jefferson County.

Governor Steve Bullock hosted a news conference on Tuesday afternoon to give an update on Montana's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus. Bullock said that his school closure order, which was set to expire Friday, will be extended to April 10. His order to close all non-essential businesses, including bars, casinos, and gyms, was also extended to April 10. Restaurants remain prohibited from allowing people to eat in their dining rooms, but can continue to provide take-out, curb-side, and delivery service ( see here ). Bullock also banned all gatherings outside of private residences of 10 people or more. Click here to read more .

Here is the total by county: Gallatin 19; Yellowstone 8; Missoula 6; Flathead 4; Cascade 3; Lewis & Clark 3; Butte-Silver Bow 3; Madison 1; Ravalli 1; Broadwater 1; Roosevelt 1; Jefferson 1.

There have not been any deaths in Montana attributed to COVID-19 at this point. Officials in Montana are keeping a list of confirmed cases in the Treasure State on an updated map and website - click here to visit the site .

A spokesman for the Montana COVID-19 Task Force says that positive test results for Montana residents who are currently outside the state will not be included in the totals reported on the website, and said: "The state recognizes that its reporting totals will differ from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) total as a result of these reporting processes." Experts still believe the true number of people infected with COVID-19 remains much higher than the number of confirmed cases.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the DPHHS public health lab in Helena has completed 2,001 tests for COVID-19.