‘Specs’ first choice for students, sports buffs

By LEVI WORTS/Montana State News

“Park here and walk to the Bobcat games,” says the slogan on the menu. The owner, Joe Demanski, slips between the tables and the bar. He refers to the regulars by their first names and then says, “How are you doing today sir?” He is a man of facial recognition and names. To become a regular is as simple as meeting Demanski one time.

Spectator's Bar and Grill is just a few steps from the Montana State University campus and is a big draw for students and college sports fans.
Spectator’s Bar and Grill is just a few steps from the Montana State University campus and is a big draw for students and college sports fans.

Pictures of various Montana State University’s teams and players cover the walls. In between hang neon signs and posters that spread friendly reminders of which alcohol to choose. Signed Bobcat sports memorabilia – basketballs, footballs and a large piece of a field-goal post – show Spectators Sports Bar and Grill’s true college spirit.

The bar holds up to its statement of “Bozeman’s Sports Authority,” stated on their menu. It is clear that they live up to their slogan. There are 16 flat screen televisions in the main bar area alone.

Here, among the scattered backpacks and the occasional laptop, students come to unwind, study, debate and laugh.  The bar has been part of Montana State University’s culture for over 15 years. Demanski bought the bar in 1998. Since then, renovations have changed the look, but the essence remains the same.

Jeff Stout, a regular visitor to Spectators and college student, says, “You can kick back for a couple beers and do a school project. It’s low key; I can do homework there too.”

Spectators has been more than just a place for college students to meet. It has also been a regular hirer of students for bartending, waitressing and for cooks.

Currently Spectators employs 22 individuals. Just over half of these employees are current students at Montana State University. Furthermore, many of the other employees have already attained degrees at the college.

Angela Heidema is a bartender at Spectator’s and Montana State University graduate. She explains that the bar has formed the identity of the “students bar.” The drink specials and giveaways are geared more towards the college students. “We have cheap drink specials,” she says. Their giveaways include items like an “incredible package for a whole camping set up, a snowboard,” she says.

During the Bobcat games Spectators becomes the location for students and fans alike. According to Heidema, there is a live DJ and canopies outside accompanied by another bar. “It sets up a party atmosphere,” she says.

“It’s the Bobcat bar,” says Heidema. She explains that a lot of students who live on campus or near it can have a few drinks in between and after classes. They can also have lunch and dinner with a range of items including “the Bobcat burger,” according to the menu.

The proximity to campus is an important factor to many patrons. Stout names this as one of the best perks of the bar’s location. “I live on campus. It’s only a five minute walk,” says Stout.  “There is never an issue of temptation.” and he says. “No drinking and driving.”

Heidema also confirms this as a major factor for the college community. “Definitely,” she says, “a lot of students that live on campus or close can walk home.” However not everyone that frequents Spectators can simply walk home. Demanski has a system that attempts to keep everyone safe.

Anyone who appears to be intoxicated is asked if they would like a cab ride.  The ride will be completely covered by the bar.  According to Heidema, “Joe’s idea is that it’s worth 10 to 15 bucks for a cab than to have someone get hurt.” The bar is legally obligated to ask customers if they need a cab ride home but not to pay for it. Stout also mentions this about Spectators: “They will call you a cab and pay for it,” he says.

Heidema says that they record each incident when they offer a cab and it is refused. “We take all the precautions we can, they decide to lie about it,” she says.

On top of that, Spectator’s enforces a strict policy against underage drinking.  The waitresses that serve alcohol have to take the Montana state certificate for checking identification, according to Heidema. “Joe is adamant about checking everyone’s identification who looks under the age of 40,” she says.

“The certification helps a lot,” says Heidema. She also says that if anyone has any doubt there is a book to check every states license against. If they are still unsure, they will ask for other forms of identification to check against says Heidema. “Even if you are getting a Coke you have to have a valid identification,” she says.

Stout mentions that you have to be in there five to six times before the waitresses won’t card you anymore. “And still you might get carded after that,” he says. However, he adds with a devilish grin, “You can do no wrong.” It is clear that Spectators promotes a safe and fun atmosphere for college students and locals alike.

– Edited by Michele McDonald

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