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Billings bars and restaurants gearing up to open later and let in more people



The Montana Brewing Company and Hooligan’s Sports Bar will soon make the change from half capacity and limited hours, as businesses will be bound by fewer state COVID-19 directives starting on Friday.

Gov. Greg Gianforte made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon.

Gianforte said the guidelines repeal existing directives that restrict hours of operation and for capacity limits for bars, restaurants, casino, breweries and distilleries..

“Going back to full occupancy, we are still going to be strongly focused on cleaning,” said Katie Lehman, manager at Montana Brewing. “Employees will still be wearing masks. We’re going to make sure that everybody feels safe when they come in here. So all of the same cleaning practices that we’ve done since day one, and following all the same sanitation guidelines.”

Current restrictions require businesses to close at 10 p.m. and only allows restaurants and bars to operate at half capacity.

Montana Brewing and Hooligan’s will be back to full capacity and a later closing time Friday.

“We’re late night here, especially over on the Hooligan’s side,” Lehman said. “Hooligan’s is definitely a later night bar. We’re gonna see a lot more business.”

Management says the lifting of restrictions will be good for other businesses in downtown Billings.

“Even though they’re competitors, we support all small local businesses,” she said. “We want everybody to be successful. An opportunity for us is also an opportunity for them. We’re all very excited. Things are going to get back to normal really quick in the next coming weeks.”

When the bar closes on Thursday, they’ll get ready for Friday

“Tables and everything to kind of go back to how it used to look in here,” Lehman said. “And we’ve been kind of under these restrictions for about nine months now, so it’ll be kind of a little bit of a learning curve to get back to somewhat normal. But we’ll get bar seating back over at Hooligan’s. We’ll get those bar stools back, which is great. We’re going to have more tables, more places to sit for people in there. Same with (Montana Brewing Company). It’ll be better. We won’t have to force have people that sit on wait anymore. So I think it’s gonna be good all around. It’s great. Yeah, mentally preparing, it’s gonna be good.”

Lehman said this will help employees with more hours and more chances for tips.

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