Owner says ongoing litigation would not affect potential tenants

By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor

BIG SKY – In 2010, the Bluebird Café was the local hot spot. The place was packed on Thursday nights, when it hosted bands after the free concerts in the Town Center Park next door.

Owners Alex and Scott Hoeksema, who also own the Lotus Pad, sold the business to Steve and Justina Smith in October 2010, and the Smiths started remodeling soon after. But the Smiths stopped paying rent in June 2011, having never completed the remodel, said the building’s owner, Mark Goode.

The Smiths left town soon after and are now purportedly living in Pennsylvania.

“Not only did they stop paying rent,” Goode said, “they also apparently stopped paying subcontractors that were working on the space.”

The Smiths were already in a lawsuit over the business sale—the Hoeksemas filed a case when the couple failed to pay for their purchase of the Bluebird Café—and Goode sued as well.

“They took a working restaurant and disabled it and left us with the pieces,” Goode said. “I just couldn’t sit back and say, ‘that’s OK’.”

The Hoeksemas declined to comment for the story because of ongoing litigation.

Today, the space on the south end of the Goode Place building sits empty. It’s actually in good shape, said Goode, noting that the Smiths installed new electric and plumbing, and Lone Moose had made other upgrades since. And, he noted, the ongoing litigation wouldn’t affect a potential tenant. “There is no question of ownership, occupancy or possession.”

Built in 2007 and designed to accommodate a restaurant, the space was also home to the Huckleberry Café before it became the Bluebird Café. The 2,605-square-foot ground floor space neighbors Lone Peak Chiropractic and the Gallatin River Gallery has a drive-through, a full commercial kitchen and windows on three sides. It has three entrances—two on the Ousel Falls Road side and one leading toward the park.

Ryan Hamilton, the project manager for the Big Sky Town Center, would like to see another restaurant go in there.

“Dozens of events and activities happen in the park—farmers market, Shakespeare in the Park, concerts, the PBR and weddings in the summer, and hockey all winter,” Hamilton said. “That really makes it the A1 spot for a restaurant in Big Sky.”