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Rolling out the sidewalk

Case Studies | May 1, 2021 | By:

The Montana Brewing Co., located on the ground floor in the defunct Montana Power Co. building, was one of the first small-scale brewpubs to appear when such facilities sprung up across the country. As the first brewing company in Billings, Mont., it staked out a claim on the main thoroughfare in the historic district of the city’s downtown in 1994.

Once one of the major businesses in Billings, Montana Power was housed for decades in a turn-of-the-century, six-story, white terra cotta-clad office building in downtown. An imposing presence on the block, the building is a natural attraction for locals and tourists.

From the beginning, the restaurant/pub had a front patio on the wide sidewalk. To fend off the strong winds that blow through town, the proprietors wrapped the sidewalk seating with makeshift screen fencing, using agricultural mesh, which is not very attractive. Over time, this mesh showed the wear and tear of weather and sun, leading to a recent recognition that a better solution was needed.

Before COVID-19, Montana Brewing had turned to Fabricon LLC, Missoula, Mont., for a retractable shade system that can be brought indoors when the snow season hits, a requirement of local building codes. The timing couldn’t have been better, as the design and construction was started in late 2019 and installation completed in June 2020. “Montana Brewing said that in hindsight, installing the retractable system was the best move it ever made!” says Mark Welander, owner of Fabricon.

According to Welander, the new motorized shade system offers several pluses for the brewpup: The retractable shades above can automatically retract if there is a snow emergency or high winds. And the motorized, retractable translucent side screens actually help control the heat during colder weather, thus extending the practical use for the safe distancing and pandemic requirements to nearly year-round.

Project data

Client: Montana Brewing Company, Billings, Mont.

Fabricator/design: Fabricon LLC, Missoula, Mont.

Fabric: Serge Ferrari 702 PVC-coated PE for top retractable shades;
PVC-coated HDPE mesh, 95 percent translucency for sidewall enclosures

Equipment: Retractable shade system; Gennius A2C from KE Outdoor Design

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