David Loseff called it a "work in progress."
The pictures taped in bubble wrap and boxes stacked in his office on the second floor of the Baxter Hotel would indicate as much.
Until now, the renovation of the the Baxter and the direction Loseff wants to take the historical building has been kept quiet. And Loseff, the Baxter's principal owner and manager who took over in December, still won't release dates when certain projects (such as the reopening of the Bacchus Pub) will happen.
He did, however, speak in general terms about what he has in store for the building - from a renewed emphasis on music to his belief that the seven-story Main Street landmark will soon be the region's premier destination for dining and entertainment for the over-21 crowd.
But even without Loseff saying a word, certain changes at the Baxter are already evident.
There's beefed-up security, with men wearing earpieces checking IDs at the door. There's music seven days a week, often as many as three different bands playing in the Baxter's three venues: The Robin, the Upper Ballroom and The Lower Ballroom.
The Savory Olive, previously located on the first floor, has been replaced with the Baxter Grille. Melaque, a Mexican restaurant that once faced Main Street, is also gone - the restored Bacchus Pub will take its place.
Something else has changed at the hotel.
"Not just the number of people, but the diversity of people and the quality of the experience," Loseff said.
Loseff called Phase 1 of his venture a success. But it's not, measured in dollars, profitable.
"At this point, I'm reinvesting all this money and then some," Loseff said.
But for the first time in a long time, Loseff said, the Baxter has a pulse and some stability.
BUYING THE BAXTER
Loseff, a private equity investor, has lived (at least part time) in Montana since 1990. His acquisition of the Baxter was somewhat unconventional. In fact he acknowledged some may have viewed it as a "hostile takeover."
Rob Broadbent, a mortgage broker in Jackson, Wyo., had owned and operated the building since 1999. But over time he acquired some debt, Loseff said, and "things started to unravel."
Over a six-month period in 2004 Loseff said he and a group of investors bought Broadbent's debt. They then took control of the property in December of that year.
When reached at his office in Jackson, Broadbent said he accumulated the debt after a partnership soured, and eventually fell apart.
"I resurrected the situation and got the place running real well," Broadbent said. "But not well enough to pay off the debt."
Broadbent said Loseff wanted to force him out, "which he eventually did."
The purchase made Loseff majority owner of the first two floors of the building. The upper floors are still condominiums with mixed use.
He has since invested in what he called a "deteriorating" building. He hired dozens of additional employees, including security and a management team.
Security provides "a safe, friendly environment," he said.
MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC
The management team will oversee the Baxter's transition into what marketing director Sam Porter says will be the "premier multi-venue in the Northwest."
Porter is responsible for booking musicians at the Baxter's three venues. He lines up Celtic, jazz and rock 'n' roll acts, among others. The Baxter has almost overdosed on music to attract attention, and after several months of consistent, solid acts, people are starting to take notice.
"I'm trying to create a sense of place" in a destination Bozeman residents may have overlooked in the past, Porter said.
He's seen the demographics at the Robin change. The bar that once attracted 21-to-30 year olds is now also appealing to an older crowd, he said.
And more changes are in store.
The building will turn non-smoking in October and The Robin bar will get a deep cleaning.
Loseff plans on opening a coffee bar in the Baxter's lobby. This falls in line with his vision that the building should be active during every waking hour.
He's working with architects to possibly combine the lower and upper ballrooms into one room, restoring it to what it once was.
That may be where whispers of the building turning into dance club came from. Porter simply said if a new, revamped venue is added it will complement a variety of musicians and fill a void in Bozeman.
"Some musicians would love to come to Bozeman, but say they don't have a place to play," Porter said.
DOING IT RIGHT
Another change, of course, is the return of the Bacchus Pub, which will again serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at a reasonable price.
Loseff hired Troy Tuft, the former executive chef at Montana Ale Works, to oversee the menus at the Baxter Grille and, once completed, Bacchus Pub and coffee shop.
Right now, Tuft said the Grille is offering "patio-type food." When the Robin turns non-smoking, food may be served in that venue as well.
"Our whole concept is that we want to bring in the new," Tuft said. "But we also want to restore the old," which includes a menu in the tradition of the Baxter's long-ago restaurants.
Part of the reason Loseff won't speculate on when the Bacchus Pub might open is because, "We want to make sure when we do open, we do it right," he said.
"To have this opportunity is like having this blank canvas," Loseff said. "It's a challenge and opportunity for all of us."