Look out. It is Family Friendly Friday at the Top Hat Lounge in downtown Missoula, Montana. The young families here have found the right idea for closing out the week. The moms and dads are laughing, talking, eating, and throwing back a few craft beers while the kids are scouting, running, twirling, and otherwise taking over the place like kids do when they see their cousins at a family reunion.
The Top Hat is no romper room. It has a long list of spirits and yummy rustic bar appetizers and entrees. Judging from the show bills plastered on the window out front this is a serious music venue for most nights. Colter Wall, Dust Bowl Revival, and Tyler Childers, plus more have gigs at the Top Hat in the next few weeks.
But tonight the kids are driving the business.
“Whoever owns this place is a genius,” my pal Cathy declares as we look out from our table in upper level of the large dining room. There are no empty tables and roughly 50 kids playing on the dance floor. The waitresses are hustling to keep up. They ferry trays full of plastic cups with soda for the kids and drinks for the parents, along with flatbread pizzas, burgers, fried pickles, chicken nuggets, and roasted Brussels sprouts.
On stage a three piece bluegrass outfit called The Acousticals performs a nice set with a few kid-flavored tunes like Bacon is a Dog’s Best Friend. They look festive in their matching red cowboy shirts and seem happy to play to their lively audience. Several parents have joined their twirling kids on the dance floor.
It is fun watching the families have fun; two little boys scurry past us at least seven times and then disappear over the rail from the upper dining level to the main floor (just a couple feet). Next they are traversing across the front of the stage. It is not exactly a chase but more like follow the leader. No one gets hurt. No one cares. The place is hopping, a cross between the Discovery Zone and Chili’s but with a cooler vibe.
About an hour or so after the fun begins, the band exits for a break and the families start to pack their strollers to head out. What a clever way to end the work week for the families or jumpstart the weekend’s till.
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