Having a glass of wine with your restaurant meal hasn't been a snap to get in Montana. There are only 304 cabaret beer-and-wine licenses available in the entire state.
That, however, is about to change. The state legislature has created 165 new cabaret licenses. They differ from conventional all-beverage and beer and wine licenses by not allowing business owners to put in electronic gambling machines.
How great is consumer demand for such options? Mike Hampton, owner of Bullman's Wood Fired Pizza in Helena, told the Helena Independent Record, "We probably get 20 people a day that ask if we have beer. Some will leave (after learning the restaurant can’t sell beer), some, not a lot of people, will take the pizza home. Some will eat here and grumble.”
To qualify, a restaurant may not have a sit-down bar, and can serve beer and wine only to people eating meals at tables. At least 65% of the restaurant’s income must come from food, and it can be open only from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. People must apply by July 6. If a city has more restaurant applications than available licenses, a lottery will be held in late July.
If you're traveling through Montana, here's a checklist of where the additional licenses will be awarded, according to the Liquor Control Division, Montana Department of Revenue:
Billings: 21 current restaurant beer and wine licenses and will get 21 more after July 1 for a total of 42.
Bozeman: 14 current licenses, 10 new licenses after July 1 for a total of 24.
Butte: 10 current licenses, although only one is being used, 10 new licenses after July 1 for a total of 20.
Great Falls: 16 current licenses, 16 more after July 1 for a total of 32.
Helena: 10 current licenses, eight more after July 1 for a total of 18.
Kalispell: 11 current licenses, 10 more after July 1 for a total of 21.
Missoula: 17 licenses now (although it should be 14), 11 more after July 1 for a total of 28. Missoula has more licenses than it should because the allocations were based on census estimates and have been adjusted for the actual census.
Whitefish: 10 licenses now, eight more after July 1 for a total of 18.
Montana, incidentally, has four wineries: Mission Mountain, Lake Missoula, Lolo Peak and Trail Creek. Mission Mountain's Monster Red 2004 was awarded a gold medal in this year's Tasters Guild International Wine Judging.
As the winery's whimsical Web site explains the wine: "Once again we have proven that some of the best wines in the world come from our unique little winery on the west shore of Flathead Lake in Montana. Monster Red is the Flathead Lake Monster’s favorite red wine when enjoying stray cattle, wild game and buffalo."
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