Steve Garr and Top Hat story in NewWest.net

Article about Steve Garr’s death and the future of the Top Hat from NewWest.net

Future of Missoula’s Top Hat Bar In Doubt After Owner’s Death

By Peter Metcalf, 2-10-09

A sign outside the Top Hat in Missoula. Photo by Anne Medley.A sign outside the Top Hat in Missoula. Photo by Anne Medley.

The future of the Top Hat bar, a long time feature of the Missoula music scene, remains in limbo, after the death of its long time owner Steve Garr.

The Top Hat “is in a time of transition right now.  It won’t be closed per se,” Nicole Garr, Steve’s oldest daughter said by telephone Monday afternoon.

Steve left the bar to his six children, who must now figure out how to run and work the place, Nicole said.

“We’ve all been in this bar all our lives.  Each one of us grew up in this bar,” Nicole said.  And like their father they worked as bartenders or musicians there too.

“Of course we all have a fantasy of coming together to run it,” Nicole said, but now most of them live in other far flung corners of the West and running the Top Hat would require some major readjustments to their lives.  Still the family hopes to keep the bar open in some modified way or find an investor who wants to continue the bar’s legacy.

The bar’s late owner, Steve Garr, passed away Friday at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula from natural causes.  He was 62.  He began working at the Top Hat around 1974 as a bartender, musician, carpenter and about every other role imaginable.  A few years after the bar closed in 1984, Steve purchased the bar. It reopened around 1987.

The Top Hat “was everything to my dad,” Nicole said.  “It was a place for him to express music.  It was a venue for the fantastic musicians of this country and out of this country as well.”

Steve, a well known musician in his own right, set out not so much to run a bar, as a venue for live music, Nicole said.  Music memorabilia decorates much of the bar and crowds regularly pack the place to listen and dance into the morning, especially to the blue grass, pine grass or other string jam-bands that were mainstays of the bar’s music scene over the past two decades.

Now the future of this Missoula music mainstay is clouded.

But before any future decisions can be made, the family wants to focus on a celebration of their father.  This week the bar will “go black” in honor of its late owner.  Beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday, a celebration of Steve’s life will take place at the Top Hat for friends and family of Steve and the bar.  In true Top Hat style, the celebration will contain plenty of music, Nicole said.

An announcement on the bar’s future could be made at that time.

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