Every Montana bar you walk into will have its own distinct characteristics and characters. The "regulars" that keep the lights on in a Montana bar are the real MVPs, however, and when they pass, a good Montana bar will honor them in this way.

Depending on what town, what part of town, or what city in Montana you walk into, the vibe can be very different. The easiest way to find out what kind of bar you're in is easy in my opinion. Just look at the regulars. Are they blue collar with dirt under their fingernails, or are they wearing some oversized hat with bedazzled jeans? Well if the first choice is true, that's the bar you want to be in, for many reasons, but we'll discuss one of the biggest ones. Respect.


You see that guy with the dirt under his nails has probably been coming to that bar for many years after a long hard day's work. He or she doesn't really say much, but when they do, it's always a crazy story that lights the whole bar up. He or she will talk about their kids once in a while, and always ask the bartender about their day. Eventually, this person becomes part of the family. Everyone knows what they drink, they know when their kid's soccer game is coming up. Things like that make that person feel like they belong to that place, and they do. Many times this bar regular will step in to stop a bar fight or jump one of the employee's car in the winter when the battery is dead. They always tip well, and these folks keep the lights on.

But, as always life happens...

One day that person won't be sitting on their usual bar stool ordering their usual drink. At first, the bar won't notice for a few days, but then someone will eventually ask "Hey, have you seen Bill"? The staff will get to talking and the worst-case scenario will start to loom over the whole building. At this point, it's up to one of the staff to try and reach out and make sure that person is okay. Sometimes they are not.

The loss of a bar regular in Montana isn't taken lightly. This is a loss of a friend to the staff, ownership, and other regulars. This person was, whether you think so or not, part of a family, and the bar will honor them as such. This hasn't become just a Montana bar thing, but I've actually seen it in a few other states. The video below is from a great bartender/media influencer from Wisconsin who lines this scenario out perfectly.


Pouring that person's regular drink and setting it up at their regular seat with a special note when they pass is a Montana bar tradition. If you see this in any bar, it's okay to read the note, but whatever you do, do not touch the drinks, sit on that bar stool, or god forbid, take a sip. These drinks and notes are set there in memory of someone that the whole staff and bar regulars thought of as a friend or even family

So if you see this sort of setup when you belly up to your favorite Montana watering hole, nod your head, show respect, and if you knew the person that passed, order the bar a round of whatever he or she was drinking.


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Gallery Credit: Ashley Warren

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