Josh Gibson, owner of the Blackbird Kitchen, soon will be opening a new bar next door.

A downtown restaurant known for its European-inspired dishes and homemade pasta will be opening a bar next door.

Blackbird Kitchen’s unnamed bar will be in the space adjacent to the restaurant, previously the location of The Chocolate Moose. The new bar will be separate but connected to the restaurant through a door, serving small plates, beer and wine.

A few years ago, Blackbird got a special license that allows them to serve beer and wine in a more bar-like setting, said Josh Gibson, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Shannon Douglass. They’ve been fantasizing about the opportunity to put it to use, and when the space next door opened up, they said they knew it was the right time.

Traci Lister, manager of the Chocolate Moose, said the store moved because the lease on the Main Street location was not renewed. The candy store just opened in another downtown location, however, on 25 S. Willson Ave.

Hoping to make the bar feel like a destination, Gibson said he and Douglass are shooting for a November opening date. People will be able to order small plates specific to the bar to be cooked in the restaurant, and restaurant eaters will be able to order drinks from the other side.

The bar side will serve beer, wine and ciders. There will be a “diverse” range of beers, Gibson said, and with a focus on natural wine that pairs well with food but is also refreshing by itself.

There are many definitions for natural wine, but Gibson said it basically means wine that has had the least amount of tinkering after the grape comes off the vine.

Because there’s so little added or changed in the process of making natural wine, it’s easy for things to go wrong.

“But when they go right, it’s a whole different kind of experience,” he said.

He and Douglass didn’t really like wine before they opened Blackbird, “so this has been kind of a revelation for us.”

The European ciders will be a little funkier than most found in Montana and the surrounding region, Gibson said, describing them as wilder and less refined.

Small plate prices will range from about $8 to $15, he said, and there will be a broad price range for wine. They’re trying to find wines that are a good value, with some coming from lesser-known places.

“We’re trying to find hidden gems in a way, which is exciting,” he said.

Gibson said he couldn’t describe the new bar’s aesthetics — people will just have to experience it. He and Douglass went to Paris for inspiration, though, and he said there will be plenty of reclaimed wood adorning the place.

From visiting Paris, the co-owners learned a lot about natural wines and atmosphere, Gibson said. They want the new space to feel cozy and intimate.

The bar will be at 140 E. Main St.

Abby Lynes can be reached at or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

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