GREAT FALLS — After shutting their doors for one day, Johnny’s Bar & Casino reopened as a drive-thru, the first drive-through bar in Great Falls.
Owner John Baroch said he had requested permission to open as a drive-through prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but didn’t receive permission until the pandemic peaked. "I made a couple calls the day before all this went down and got an email that said it was okay,” Baroch said.
Baroch received guidance from the Montana Department of Revenue detailing how he could go about selling alcohol for ‘off-premises consumption during state shut down.’ The release states businesses are allowed to, “sell alcohol through a drive-up window.” Fortunately for Johnny’s Bar & Casino, their facility was already equipped with a drive-thru used to distribute food to customers.
“We do our food through there but it was kind of an opportunity for us to continue in business at the smaller scale,” Baroch said.
Baroch said since the drive-thru started a few weeks ago, traffic has been steady. “It’s been great for us. Food’s going well. We fill a lot of growlers and lots of drinks, lots of bottles,” Baroch said.
The steady traffic has helped compensate for lost business from in-store customers and their casino, and allowed Baroch to support his staff. “Without the drive-thru we’d be shut down. We have 10 on staff - we’ve retained everybody,” Baroch said.
Although the spirits are what customers pay for, it’s the bartenders that customers come to see. “All of our regular customers kinda know when their favorite bartenders work,” Baroch said.
Ally Teberg has been tending bar for eight years and pours her heart into every customer. “That’s my job and it’s my favorite part of the job! I love my job so when I get to say hi to somebody that I haven't seen in weeks or days or even hours, it’s part of my job I love it,” Teberg said.
She also takes extra steps to make sure her customers are safe - wearing a mask, wiping down pens, drinks, and cards with bleach, and spraying Lysol on money. “I bleach all my pens on the way out on the way back in. i bleach every single card every ID...it’s a lot of extra steps but it’s really worth it,” Teberg said.
The bar also takes measures to make sure customers don’t drink and drive. “We obviously ID everybody in the car. If there’s four people in a car that pull up, they all get checked...when we give them a drink we put a lid on it, straws are separate."
While the staff does their best to prevent drinking and driving, it’s the customers’ responsibility to abide by the laws. “Per the directive, it’s legal for us to hand it to them. It’s their responsibility to obey the state and county laws,” Baroch said.
Johnny’s Bar & Casino is located at 1400 10th Avenue North in Great Falls. They are open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Click here to visit the Facebook page.