A new craft beer, cider and wine taproom is opening in central Missoula near Southgate Mall, but many will already be familiar with the name.
The Dram Shop in downtown Missoula on Front Street has been a popular hangout since it opened in 2015, and now owners Zach and Sarah Millar are planning on a second location at 2700 Paxson Street, which used to be Dan's Soup and San.
“We’ve been working on it since June,” Zach Millar explained. “It’ll be similar to our downtown location, but there will be slight differences. It’ll be about the same size, but we’re actually planning on a larger patio kind of situation. The space itself will have more outdoor seating.”
The Millars fashioned the Dram Shop downtown as a “growler-fill station” where people could choose from more than 30 different beers from local breweries and around the world as well as a variety of other beverages. It was also the first place to get wine on tap in Missoula, and the new location will offer the same services. Millar recognizes that people who appreciate the Dram Shop might not want to go all the way to downtown.
“Locations are hard to come by right now, but we knew we wanted to be far enough from downtown,” he said. “This location makes sense. There’s a lot going on out by the mall and a lot of people on that end of town. There’s not a lot of breweries or more hip kind of vibe stuff. Now Lucky’s Market is out there, and that’s helpful. And there’s also long-term plans for residential development out there kind of bouncing around.”
The Southgate Mall area has seen rapid redevelopment since the Great Recession ended, part of a $64 million effort to revitalize it as a commercial and neighborhood hub. New retail stores like H&M, the new Lucky’s grocery store, a 1,000-seat dine-in AMC movie theater and a new public road through the mall property have been built in recent years. This past February, Southgate Mall was sold from its local owners to an Ohio-based real estate investment trust for $58 million.
In 2015, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency approved a request to use $6.9 million in tax increment financing to help build a new road, an extension of Mary Avenue between Brooks and Reserve, which is directing much more traffic through the mall property. The money will be paid back by what city officials estimate will be more than $320,000 a year in new property taxes, which are diverted away from the city's general fund and put back toward the property, since it sits in an Urban Renewal District.
Peter Lambros, a local developer who represents the old mall ownership group, told the Missoulian that there are plans for housing nearby.
“We really want to tackle the housing piece, and the purchase will allow us to put our efforts in to the housing piece,” Lambros told the Missoulian after the sale.
The previous ownership groups still own empty lots surrounding the mall, and Missoula’s housing prices have skyrocketed over the past eight years mainly due to a lack of new supply.
Millar said the success of his and his wife’s first Dram Shop venture doesn’t mean it’s any less stressful opening a second location.
“Getting the location was the last barrier; then we can start pulling permits and get to work,” he said. “It’s always a process that takes a little longer. At least you know what to expect [after doing it before] but it’s still terrifying.”