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Live music death march

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Another casualty has been added to the roll call of downtown’s dying live music venues. The soon to be deceased is one of Missoula’s oldest venues at which to tune into both quality local open mike nights and national touring acts: The Ritz on Ryman.

While the joint will remain under the same ownership, it will be drastically altered and turned into a sports bar. All employees have been given notice to reapply; the transition is set to take place on May 15.

Employees are sad to see it go. Some have spent the better part of a decade booking acts and serving drinks to an array of music lovers.

“There’s an element of sadness for sure,” manager and talent buyer Marlies Borchers said. “I’ve been here seven years and have seen a lot of awesome live music. After losing three venues in less than a year, it’s devastating for people who support and play live music. It feels like a bit of a break up.”

Borchers said that patrons can expect a massive facelift to the bar and its atmosphere, which might include different faces on the working side of the pine.

“I gave them my notice already,” bartender Jason Montanaro said. When asked if he thought a sports bar would be profitable, given the bar’s proximity to other prominent sports bars like Red’s, Bodega and the Missoula Club, he replied, “I wouldn’t go that route. I would go for a martini or cocktail bar.”

A blonde girl sitting in the bar, nearly empty at 4 p.m. on a Monday afternoon, chimed in with, “I hope they don’t take down all of the decorations and replace them with sports stuff.”

Borchers speculates on the Ritz’ potential for success as a sports bar.

“The burden in Missoula is that they have to make something really special happen here to compete with the corner of the market that is already spoken for,” Borchers said. “And I think they intend to do that.”

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