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Billings bar reopens with new sanitation and social distancing measures



BILLINGS — Management at the Grandstand Sports Bar and Casino on Tuesday urged patience to Billings patrons who now may have to wait a little longer for a table as area bars, restaurants and casinos adopt new cleaning and social distancing procedures.

Jevon Lorenz has been with the Grandstand for 14 years, with six as the general manager. He said business was a little slow on Monday, the first night back in weeks.

“It’s a little slower. But I have to say that our customers in and out are more than patient. If you’ve been around the past few weeks in this town or across the country, it’s not a surprise to see that things are different,” said Lorenz.

Phase one of Gov. Steve Bullock’s plan to reopen Montana requires bars operate at half capacity by removing seats and distancing them six feet apart, among other rules. In addition, no patrons are allowed to sit at or order drinks from the bar.

Lorenz said proper procedures are being followed by the Grandstand staff.

“There’s a lot more cleaning being done after patrons leave. There’s sanitizer everywhere. We’re sanitizing seats and tabletops and touch points. We’re washing every dish after it’s used. There’s no more filling of shot glasses or refilling of water glasses. It’s all new straw, new ice. It’s just eliminating the chance of anybody touching anything that they shouldn’t be,” Lorenz said.

The Grandstand has a kitchen that specializes in hot wings. For the first five days after the March 16 shutdown, Lorenz said the Grandstand offered take-out. Then when it was announced the restrictions would be lengthened, management saw it fit to move up the date of an interior remodel previously scheduled for July.

“It gave us time to dig into everything and tear everything up. New carpets, paint, tile, new bathrooms and bathroom fixtures, new kitchen counter tops and walls. It was a much needed upgrade,” Lorenz said.

The kitchen was the first piece of the project completed in order to open back up for take out. For the past two weeks, the kitchen has been operational. Lorenz said the rest of the remodel was finished up last weekend.

Through the closure, the Grandstand was able to pay all of its employees, and now that the bar is open, have them on regular shifts again.

“Everybody is back. The night crew is losing a few hours by having to close early. But that’s just the way it is for now. Everybody got their schedules as it was before COVID-19. We’re all ready to work, that’s for sure,” Lorenz said.

All Montana bars are required to close at 11:30 p.m. under phase one of the reopen plan.

Lorenz thanked the Billings community for its support during the closure.

“We are very grateful that the community came in. We had days that were busier food-wise than when we were open a couple times. People were wanting our wings and wanting our food. We were glad to provide that when we could.”

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