BILLINGS - From reduced hours, to limited seating and staff allowed, many in the restaurant world have had to think outside the box.
In this Rebound Feature, two restaurants are highlighted that are doing just that.
Many businesses are working to find a balance between serving customers and maintaining safety.
After the closure of bars and restaurants in March for COVID precautions, many are taking it outside, literally.
Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill, located at the end of Montana Avenue, has taken their first steps in a project to transform their back patio.
"We're going to do a permanent structure and have something that has outdoor seating as well as have the ambiance of a patio," Last Chance's General Manager Jennifer Hurtt said.
Last Chance also hopes to incorporate open air, roll down, or vinyl walls, as well as a fire pit and eventually, live music.
"Of course, all of these things take time and while we're slow we're still paying the bills, and we're making sure that everything gets taken care of. I haven't had to cut back on staff, which is fantastic. So keeping local people employed. Shopping local. And just making sure that money is staying here," Hurtt said.
They expect the project to be fully complete by as early as Spring of 2021. For now, you just have to use a little imagination.
"There are lots of moving parts and moving pieces going on here, thus far we've been doing pretty great," Hurtt said.
The final design also incorporates both high and low seating
"I picture community events. I picture laughing, smiling, feeding people. Kind of returning to normal, whatever the new normal is. Happiness," Hurtt said.
Now, lets head a little way down the road, to Edgar Bar.
They're thinking outside the box for patio seating, or rather, inside the igloo.
"We have started a new experience out on our patio, we are doing patio igloos," Edgar Bar Manager Megan Donoghue said.
The igloos are full service. They are available for two hour windows for a night in.
"It's important to us to keep moving forward and keep bringing fresh things to the table. We feel that this might be an allure to people who are afraid to get out there and go eat and be in crowds so you still get to be your own group and your own space and that's another bonus to these igloos," Donoghue said.
The igloos are adult only, for safety precautions with the heaters, and also to allow for a parents night out.
"We wanted the igloos to be comfortable, warm, it's not like you're just sitting in a bubble outside, so we have rugs in there and cute table-cloths, and Christmas Trees. The heaters are really toasty," Donoghue said.
The team says that there's been a lot of trouble-shooting along the way, but also, a lot of fun.
"It's brought some new challenges for the serving staff, we're working through that and learning as we go. There is a step into the igloo. Everybody watch out. Watch the lip," Donoghue said.
If the igloos are a success there could potentially be more of them in the future. They've even considered the idea of a couples igloo.
"We get to bring this experience to people that you know this year has brought a lot of challenges as far as being able to connect and spend time with family and friends and this experience really gives you that opportunity to get together with friends, get together with family in some amount of privacy but still get the excitement of going out to eat and doing something different," Donoghue said.
Both restaurants thanked loyal patrons for continuing to support them during the trying past months.
The igloos are available Fridays thru Sundays. Contact Edgar Bar at 406-962-3091 to reserve your igloo.
Q2 News will update you as Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill gets farther along in their transformation. They can be reached at 406-534-8918.