MISSOULA — “A lot on the corner of Cedar Street and Higgins Avenue, where excavations were made two years ago for a Masonic temple and opera house, was sold last Wednesday to the Garden City Liquor and Bottling company for a consideration of $18,000. A handsome building will be put up in the near future by the purchasers.” — The Ravalli Republican, May 8, 1895.
Thus was conceived the downtown Missoula building, reportedly finished by 1896, that has been home to the Liquid Planet since 2003. A lot of history has happened in between: Garden City Liquor and Bottling closed in the early 1900s. The Coffee Parlor Café occupied the site from 1915 until about 1938. Then there was Woolworths. Ogg’s Shoes opened shop there in the 1970s.
Then along came Scott Billadeau, Chad Morgan and Skyla Sisco, co-owners of Liquid Planet, a unique combination of coffeehouse and beverage market.
Now they’re in the process of moving the business from its current location at 223 N. Higgins Ave. around the corner to 121 W. Broadway, the former site of Zootown Brew, which closed last June.
And what will become of the Higgins Avenue location? Billadeau, Morgan and Sisco are planning to open not one, but two restaurants and bars, one upstairs and one in the basement, while honoring the history of the building in the process.
“Our goal is to pay homage to the building in the basement bar,” Sisco said, “by making it more of a speakeasy.”
Little is known about the history of the basement, but Sisco has been doing her homework, searching through library archives, old newspapers clippings and historic photos to gather as much information as she can. Among her finds: Advertisements for the Coffee Parlor Café, from prohibition days, suggesting that they were open late to “accommodate dancing,” prompting speculation that it was a speakeasy – the common name for illicit establishments that sold alcoholic beverages during prohibition.
Sisco has also found reports of a deadly shooting that took place in the alley behind the building, and has a photo of brothers Norman and Paul Maclean, of “A River Runs Through It” fame, standing by the front door. She plans to display historic memorabilia on the downstairs walls.
Liquid Planet has already expanded quite a bit since the opening of what Billadeau calls “the flagship” store downtown sixteen years ago. There are now Liquid Planet beverage shops in the Missoula County Courthouse, Farmers State Bank, the Book Exchange and at Missoula International Airport. There are also Liquid Planet Grilles at Consumer Direct, and on Arthur Avenue near the University of Montana.
Billadeau said they’re still developing concepts for their new restaurants and bars, but the downstairs will include an event space called the Barrel Room, and they will also have a wine cellar, a stage for live music, and “hopefully” an alley entrance.
“Our theme with our beverages has always been ‘global flavors,’” Billadeau said. “We plan to elevate what we’ve been doing with beverages and also apply the global flavors theme to food.”
He and his business partners hope to have the relocated Liquid Planet on Broadway opened by Oct. 1, and the new restaurants and bars by March 2020.