Historic Whitefish bar reopens in new digs

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The newly remodeled Casey's bar in Whitefish opened for business on Friday. 

Casey’s staff rolled out the red carpet and put up velvet rope lines for Friday’s opening night, as a Whitefish landmark was back in business.

Inside, the music was thumping and the nightclub was packed, though each of the three floors — about 17,000 square feet — imparted a different mood.

The first floor offered patrons a laid-back atmosphere. There was a football game playing on several flat screen TVs, casino gaming machines by a kitchen in the back serving an eclectic mix of menu options including truffle fries, hummus and chips, kabobs, wings and sandwiches.

But it didn’t take long for music booming down the second-floor stairwell to beckon people to the dance floor. On the second floor, a D.J. set the energy level. Strobe lights flashed over dancers. At the center of the floor was a dance pole on a platform for the more daring. A mezzanine above provided a panoramic view and a TV by the bar showed a live camera feed of the dance floor so people wouldn’t miss the action.

The overall decor of the new Casey’s is modern and upscale. An example of this is the lounge area on the mezzanine. Accent lighting in the form of round globes dangling from the ceiling like stars defines the area, and a minimalist backlit fireplace creates a focal point. A breath of fresh air is not far away on nearby balconies.

Many patrons took advantage of the warm night Friday and a night sky lit up by the blue moon on the third-floor rooftop lounge. Blue accent lighting bathed the stone walls of the building and a fountain created a calming atmosphere. Although the night was warm, there were plenty of outdoor heaters to keep chills at bay. The heated rooftop is unique in the resort town.

The nightclub located on the corner of Central Avenue and First Street — the original site of the 1903 Casey’s Bar building — was purchased by Eric Payne, owner of Frontier Builders, from Richard Kramer in early 2011.

Initially, Payne didn’t have plans to tear down the historic structure, one of the oldest commercial buildings in Whitefish. But time had taken its toll on the structural integrity of the wooden building, and plans were made to rebuild a new Casey’s on the site.

Payne said that the idea was to create a state-of-the-art facility that retained the feel of an old pub.

The original two-story bar began as Sprague Saloon at the turn of the 20th century. Bill Murr bought the saloon in 1940 and renamed it the Club Bar. Pat Casey took over the business in 1967 and renamed it Casey’s. Richard Kramer then bought the landmark in 2003 and operated it until selling to Payne last year.

“It’s great to see this kind of investment in downtown Whitefish,” Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Director Kevin Gartland said. “I think this signals a real turnaround in the economy. It’s a beautiful building and it’s good to have it open again after a year and a half. It’s a real addition to downtown.”

At 1:30 a.m. of opening night, bright lights were turned on alerting patrons to “last call.” A busy debut had come to a close as people started filing down the stairs and out into the early morning.

A line forms outside Friday night at the opening of Casey's bar in Whitefish. 

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