Montana – Bars Nightlife and Entertainment.

Montana. If you find yourself enjoying a Martini in Montana, spare a thought for the proprietor of the establishment you happen to be in. Chances are he or she has spent a small fortune on obtaining a full liquor license. Reportedly some go for as much as $1m these days. Conversely, if you’re about to order a steak and find that the glass of red that would wash down so well with it, just isn’t on the menu, then try not to leave in too much of a huff. In this case the proprietor probably can’t afford a license or there simply aren’t enough to go round in that particular town. Such are the weird and wonderful licensing laws in Montana. You’ll also find a lack of national chains that don’t franchise..such as Red liquor licenses are limited to state residents. Does this mean Montana is full of tee-totalers? Of course not. Montana reportedly has one of the most serious drinking problems of any US sate on one of the highest rates of alcohol related road deaths……not bad for a state that is one of the least populated.
If you’re into gambling, though, Montana is one of the more liberal states (although it has only been so since the mid 1980s) and you’ll find casinos galore – some run on Indian reservations. Billings, alone, has around 19 main casinos listed and you’ll find Lucky Lil’s just about everywhere you go. Poker is also legal and many pubs/bars also have gaming tables.

One wonders if Sitting Bull, fighting Custer and the 7th Cavalary at the Battle of Little Bighorn back in 1876, to retain Indian rights, would have much liked the Montana of today with its strange laws. Eventually Sitting Bull had to admit defeat, but his legacy and the strong Indian heritage of the state lives on, albeit in fixed reservations round the state: Crow, Blackfeet, Flathead, Northern Cheyenne, Fort Peck, Fort Belknap, Little Shell and Rocky Boy’s. Visitors are generally welcome and look out for the many fairs and festivals taking place throughout the year. North American Indian Days, which takes place in July, is about the biggest. This Blackfeet tribal event hosts Native Americans from across the United States and Canada. There are traditional drumming and dancing contests, parades, fun runs and the crowning of Miss Blackfeet.
‘Montana’ is taken from the Spanish word meaning mountain and the state certainly has more than a few of them, particularly in the central and western thirds. This is Rocky Mountain country, and also home to the Glacier national park, Flathead lake, Yellowstone National Park and, of course, the Battle of Little Bighorn site. Montana also played a major role in the famous Lewis & Clark expedition of 1805, in their attempt to find the ‘Northwest Passage’, a water route that would connect the Pacific to the Atlantic. It’s also the site of Hell Creek Formation, a major dinosaur fossil site. So tourism is big business here. But watch out for grizzly bears, there are more here than any other of the lower 48 states.

Bordered by Canada for more than 500 miles, as well as North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho, Montana is the fourth largest state in the US but one of the least populated. In fact, much of the landscape that Lewis & Clark ventured through is very much as it was, creating a trekkers’ , fishing and nature lovers’ paradise. Plus, if you’re into the wild west, Montana offers cattle ranches, rodeos and even gold-mining opportunities. That’s probably why it’s also known as ‘Big Sky Country’ and the Treasure State. The first gold strike took place in Deer Lodge Valley in 1852, but it was the strike in Bannock ten years later that started the Montana ‘gold rush’.

Helena is the state capital,with the claim to fame that in 1888 it had the most millionaires per capita in the world (thanks to the discovery here of placer and quartz gold, silver and lead), and other major cities are Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Havre, Kalispell and Missoula. Then there are the ski resort towns such as Whitefish, Red Lodge, Big Sky, Blacktail Mountain etc, all offering active après-ski nightlife with names that just epitomise where you are….Snow Creek Saloon, Old Piney Dell, Bull ‘n Bear Saloon, and Bridge Creek are all popular watering holes in Red Lodge
Wherever you find yourself in Montana, you’ll find lively (sometimes rowdy) nightlife choices, though remember that not all restaurants may necessarily serve alcohol, or may only have a wine/beer license. Where it is served, though, the restrictions on sales are minimal so you can party til 2am in plenty of venues. The flavour may vary from town to town. Bozeman, for example, is a college town so expect casual bars, plenty of live music – much of it from local bands – and several brewpubs such as the Bozeman Brewing Company in N Broadway, with at least five beers on tap, and the Montana Ale Works on Main Street, with 40 microbrews and an excellent steak and sandwich choice. Boodles in Main Street, offers a little more upscale service with a mouthwatering range of spirits (great mojitos) and excellent snacks.

Bozeman is a popular starting and stopping point for visitors (helped by having one of the state’s main airports). The other is Missoula, where again you’ll find plenty of evening wind down and chill out places including the Big Sky Brewing Company, whose Moose Drool beer can be found in plenty of local bars, and the Oxford Saloon where pool and poker are the order of the day.

Mention must be made of Great Falls – the Western Art Capital of the world, where you’ll find exhibits just about everywhere. It’s also a lively town in the evening with a few casinos – try Silver City and Prospector Casino 11; excellent sports bars The Brick, The Sting and legends; and The Other Place, an open all day bar serving breakfast and turning into a fun nightspot open til 2am.
Foodwise, Montana is very much a red meat state, so expect menus to be dominated by steak and game. Increasingly, though, restaurateurs are realising that visitors are not all into sides of cow, so you will find alternatives!

Smoking was banned in all public places, including workplaces and restaurants, back in 2005 in Montana. However…and it’s a big however for all you people for whom beer without tobacco is just not worth the hops it’s made with. Bars, casinos, nightclubs and cocktail lounges that receive 60 per cent or more of their revenue or alcohol or gambling are exempt from the ban until October 1, 2009. Better learn to play poker then!