BUTTE - The M&M Cigar Store, a landmark bar and eatery that never locked its doors, was closed Tuesday night, hours after the business manager filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The business has been an institution in Uptown Butte for decades, especially as a rallying point during the city's famous St. Patrick's Day celebrations.
"It was not profitable any more," said Charles Bugni, 78, who had leased the business for nearly three decades.
The last call for drinks was made at 7:17 p.m. and the doors were locked a few minutes after 8 p.m. Many of the patrons were crying. People who tried to take mementos were stopped by bankruptcy trustee Bill Kebe and most items were returned.
The M&M had about 20 full-time and part-time employees.
The owners of the M&M, Patricia Lisac, and her mother, Patricia Delmoe, said they have taken great pains to keep Bugni in business and the M&M open, but said Bugni hadn't paid regular rent since 1997 and owed back taxes.
The bankruptcy filing in U.S. District Court here on Tuesday preceded by a day a scheduled hearing before District Judge Ted Mizner in Anaconda on the owners' suit for back rent.
"This is the last thing in the world I wanted to do was to close the doors of the M&M," explained Lisac, who said that her late father Dan Delmoe poured four decades of his life into the business.
"We have so many problems in Butte right now and it's just another slap in the face," she said. "We never wanted this to happen."
In court papers, Bugni listed debts of $158,000 to various creditors, including $80,000 in back rent.
Among assets listed were the businesses' liquor license valued at $35,000 and liquor and food inventory of $2,000.
Chapter 7 is referred to as a liquidation bankruptcy.
Bugni said the M&M was no longer profitable, due in part to a lack of clientele.
"Look around," Bugni said, gesturing to the bar that had about 12 customers during the afternoon. "There are no people."
He characterized the M&M as old-time Butte, dependent on older men for its livelihood. "This isn't a young man's joint and the old-timers are passing away," he said.
Butte-Silver Bow officials were trying to see if something could be done to help the M&M's situation.
"If there are retention issues, Butte-Silver Bow is very interested and with a phone call in a timely manner we could step in and help," said Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Judy Jacobson.
She was eating lunch at the M&M Tuesday when she learned about the impending closure.
Bugni said he tried to sell the business before bankruptcy. He also said the building would require substantial work and money to bring it up to code if someone else reopens it.
Bugni said he was saddened by the closure of a business that prided itself on never locking its doors. He said the M&M is a destination point that attracts regulars and tourists who drive to Butte just to experience breakfast at the M&M or a St. Patrick's Day.