FORT BENTON — On Tuesday, the Banque shut its doors after being purchased by the Grand Union in Fort Benton. The Banque Club has served the Chouteau County community for nearly 50 years.
Lyle and Junne Johnsrud purchased Stockmen's National Bank and transformed it into The Banque Club during the 1970s. The building also had a restaurant Junne's Steakhouse for families. Lyle and Junne later passed on the bar and restaurant to their son, Carter, who ran it until 2021.
Carter explains, "I moved in there before we opened up. I was living there in 1975, I've been there ever since." His fondest memories of the Banque club include the 1974 film "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" with Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges being filmed right outside. In 2021, Carter sold the bar to a relative.
Now, the Banque Club building will serve a new purpose for Fort Benton. The owner of the Grand Union, Colette Longin, purchased the building. "It means a lot for the rest of our business plan, in the sense of having more events, more weddings, more parties." The purchase will expand the capabilities of the hotel giving them more office space, another kitchen and a liquor license. Longin explains, "We'll take that space, open it yup and it will become what I am calling a secondary event space."
"It really solidifies us in the restaurant business to have a full liquor license", Longin explains. She also says there are plans in the works to expand the Grand Union's patio.
Colette Longin hopes the full liquor license will bring a new customer base to Fort Benton, "The Grand Union does well, everybody does well in town. The more people that we bring in in the summertime and fort events, all of the businesses on Front Street and Main Street and the surrounding areas - everybody benefit."