MISSOULA — A large lunch crowd gathered at The Old Post Thursday afternoon for a last meal, last drink and to bid farewell, following a surprise announcement that the downtown Missoula bar and restaurant was shutting its doors for good at day’s end.
“I’ve been coming here for 20 years or so,” said a patron named Tim. “It’s my favorite place to have lunch and a beer. I’m going to miss it.”
Another, Russell, said he loved the food and atmosphere. “I hate to see it go,” he said.
Located at 103 West Spruce St., near Worden’s Market and Deli, The Old Post was run by the American Legion Forgotten Warriors Post 101. The Legion is a national, nonprofit war veterans organization, formed in 1919.
Post 101 Commander Trevor Weinheimer said when he took office in April, he learned The Old Post had been experiencing financial difficulties for years.
“We tried to clean it up, and make it more financially sound,” he said. “But it didn’t work out. We are so far in debt it’s irrecoverable. Now we’re looking to possibly seek bankruptcy protection.”
The decision to close, announced on social media late Wednesday, caught a lot of people off guard.
“Thursday is the LAST, last call at The Old Post,” the business stated. “Come say farewell and cheers one last time!”
Weinheimer said they were planning to close sometime in mid-November, and give employees and others plenty of notice.
“But then Wednesday we learned of a payment, due by the close of the business day, related to insurance, business compensation, that we couldn’t pay,” he said. “So unfortunately, we had no choice but to shut down right away. That’s why it was so quick and spontaneous. We dreadfully regret having to do this.”
Several employees of The Old Post, unexpectedly working their last shifts, were only comfortable speaking off the record, but expressed sadness and surprise.
“It was pretty shocking news, and certainly not our choice,” said one. “We’re like family here. We love this place. We put our heart into it, and worked hard to keep it open.”
Another said, “It’s nice to see everyone here to say goodbye, but I wish they were all here yesterday, and the day before, and the day before. Maybe we wouldn’t be closing.”
Tim France, owner and manager of nearby Worden’s Market and Deli and owner of the building that houses Worden’s and The Old Post, said he was as surprised as everyone else by the sudden announcement.
“I knew they were struggling,” he said. “It’s difficult to run a business by committee. They had a good manager who ran the place for 17 1/2 years, and he did a good job. Then a new committee came along and got rid of him.”
France had placed the building, on the corner of Higgins and Spruce, on the real estate market in May, for the asking price of $3.9 million. But he recently took it off the market.
“We put it on the market for a while,” he said. “We learned what we needed to learn and took it off the market.”
He does not yet know what will replace The Old Post.
When the bartender shouted “last call” Thursday afternoon, several patrons raised their glasses and said “farewell” and “cheers.”