The Missoula City Council approved a request to open a new tavern, casino and restaurant on North Reserve Street, and gave a University District homeowner the green light to build a controversial accessory dwelling unit.
White-Leasure Development plans to construct a 5,000 square-foot Native Grill and Wings restaurant at 4875 North Reserve, along with an attached 2,000 square-foot tavern and casino.
They also plan to raze the existing Joker’s Wild casino and construct a new Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers. They want both businesses to be open by the end of the year.
“I had never been to Missoula until nine months ago, and after coming here, I knew I was going to bring one of the franchises,” said franchise owner Brad Williams. “I can promise you, it’s something the city will be proud of.”
Those behind the $1.2 million development said the area of North Reserve was underserved by dining options. The project is compatible with the area’s commercial and light industrial uses.
The proposal won the full support of the city, though one person spoke in opposition. Greg Strandberg, a vocal and regular critic of the city and its council, said the proposed businesses were those of “some rich guy” from out of town who would likely pay minimum wage.
“Like we really need another one of those, a casino and bar,” Strandberg added. “This is pointing to the kind of problem we have in this community. This money is going right out of town.”
Williams politely fired back, saying that while some workers would likely earn minimum wage working at Freddy’s when starting out, they have the opportunity to advance and earn as much as $75,000 a year as a manager.
The two new businesses would also bring more than 100 new jobs to the city, he said.
“We hire people 16 years of age, their very first job, and those are minimum wage,” he said. “But I’ve had kids who started three years ago at minimum (wage) now getting paid $50,000, not from some rich guy from Phoenix, but one who grew up in a small Kansas town and got treated right and learned some valuable lessons from his parents.”
While come council members agreed that minimum wage jobs were a problem in Missoula, most said they started out at minimum wage and learned the value of hard work.
Ward 4 council member Jon Wilkins started off earning $1.25 an hour.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” Wilkins said. “If you’ve got moxie, you build your way up.”
Ward 2 council member Adam Hertz agreed.
“It’s important to learn the value of money and hard work,” he said. “I want to thank these folks for bringing jobs to the city, and investing in the city.”
In other business, the council also approved an accessory dwelling unit at 341 Keith Avenue. Neighbors opposed the move, saying the area was already crowded and parking was a problem.
The applicant, however, said he’d followed the rules and worked to ensure the project complied with city rules and wanted to be good neighbor.
“I want to be a good neighbor and I want it to fit the neighborhood,” said owner Frank Scariano. “We’re just following the regulations and guidelines established by Development Services. The square footage of the lot supports this small, one-person building.”