Sean Kelly’s, an Irish bar that first opened at 130 West Pine St. in downtown Missoula in 1998, has been sold to a trio of Billings investors who plan to remodel the space this summer and reopen with a new name.
“Two out of three of us are Griz alumni,” says Sean Graves, one of the buyers, “so that was always a dream, to come back.”
After graduation in 2005, Graves moved to Billings and became part owner of Hooligan’s F.C., a downtown sports bar. A year later he purchased ownership in the Montana Brewing Company, a downtown brewpub, and in 2011 he helped launch the Vig Alehouse & Casino, a new bar and restaurant in Billings Heights. For his first Missoula venture, Graves is partnering with Christine Schmechel and John Woods Jr.
Before they can move forward, however, Graves, Schmechel and Woods have to wait for the Department of Revenue’s Liquor Control Division to approve the transfer of Sean Kelly’s liquor license. According to Liquor Control Division administrator Shauna Helfert, that process takes between 60 and 90 days. The buyers submitted an application for the transfer on April 14, meaning the process should be complete sometime in June or July. Once the transfer is official, the bar will close temporarily for remodeling. What exactly that remodel will entail is not yet decided.
“We’re still in the concept phase of figuring out what we can do with the space,” Graves says.
Tom Hilley, the current owner of Sean Kelly’s downtown and Sean Kelly’s Stone of Accord on Reserve Street, declined to comment for this article.
Graves says he and his partners will draw from their experience in Billings as they flesh out their vision for the new bar. The Indian food options currently available on Sean Kelly’s menu will be discontinued, but he says the new bar will continue to serve food, maintain an Irish theme, host trivia and have beer bingo. As for live music, Graves says it is “something that’s not been ruled in or out.”
“We think we have some of the best bars in Montana,” Graves says, “and we just want to showcase that in other avenues.”