The Bar Tab: At Holiday Inn lounge, an unsettling solitude

Mr. Bitters and Olive

Mr. Bitters and Olive

In retrospect, we are not surprised that we had the Holiday Inn lounge to ourselves.

If you’re looking for less negativity in your life, please stop reading right now—there are plenty of uplifting cat memes you can read. If you’re looking for an honest impression of a sub-par establishment, please read on.

In our quest to leave no stone unturned, we recently visited the bar in the Holiday Inn (we think it has a name, but that doesn’t really matter). While traveling or living in other areas of the country, we’ve had many great experiences in hotel bars, which sometimes have great happy hours and a relaxing atmosphere. Some of the best options are Holidays Inns, and we have enjoyed many evenings of all-you-can-eat tacos and 2-for-1 happy hours.

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When we pulled up in front of the Billings Holiday Inn, there was a sign advertising a lounge inside. We scouted the exterior of the complex but couldn’t find the entrance. Undeterred, we went inside … and found no further indications of where the lounge might be.

Since Mr. Bitters couldn’t ask for directions (because he’s a man), Olive decided to take the lead. The front-desk employees pointed us in the right direction, and at last we entered the bar, which is inconveniently located down an unmarked hallway with practically no visible signage. There was not a soul in sight.

Although we had our choice of every seat in the place, Mr. Bitters always prefers to sit at the bar, so there we sat. There we waited for someone, anyone, to come greet us. A laminated booklet of specialty cocktails was sitting on the bar, so we thumbed through it, noting many delicious-sounding options.

A bartender eventually materialized, and Mr. Bitters ordered the pecan old-fashioned from the menu. Fat chance. Apparently, the cocktail menu was sent to all Holiday Inn locations by corporate headquarters, and our local branch didn’t have most of the necessary components. In fact, they couldn’t prepare an old-fashioned of any variety. Mr. Bitters settled on a gin and tonic.

Olive was in the mood for something different and asked to try a sample of the Prosecco listed on their wine menu (always sample before committing to a full glass). A bottle of Prosecco was soon produced, but apparently the bartender was confused by the product, as it was served flat, at room temperature and from a bottle with a regulator on top. Apparently the Holiday Inn puts sparkling wine and hard liquor in the same category. Olive politely sipped her shot, then ordered a beer.

We felt like a little grease at the end of our long week, so after looking over the appetizer menu, we ordered some onion rings. They were served with a side of bottled ranch dressing. Period. We were not offered napkins, ketchup, silverware or any other accoutrements. To be fair, the onion rings were pretty darn good. Nothing to write home about, but we were pleasantly surprised by the well-seasoned, thick-cut onions.

This is when things got a little weird. After our appetizer was delivered, the bartender vanished. Disappeared. For a solid 40 minutes.

During this entire time, the room was deathly silent but for an electronic bowling machine that made random “Strike!” sounds from the corner. Also, the bartender left her radio behind, so we were soothed by the sounds of random employee banter. (Room 1171, we hope you got your rollaway.)

The bar is dimly lit, and the décor has a distinctive ’70s lounge feel. There are a few gaming machines available, along with a pool table, foosball, darts and juke box. A few Western artifacts were hung on the walls to make the space a little more place-specific. The only unique décor was a series of cattle brands burned into boards that adorned the space. All the furniture was strictly hotel-grade.

At first, when our drinks were empty we made some attempts to locate a staff member. No dice. It’s a good thing we’re trustworthy, since this would have been the easiest dine-and-dash ever.

On a positive note, we don’t have cable TV at home, and the remotes were easily accessible. We were in complete control of all televisions on site. This made the loneliness much more bearable.

Someone finally came to check on us, so we asked for our tab while we had the chance. Apparently such solitude does not come cheap—the prices were quite high, especially given the quality. We were glad to show this bar our tail lights.

Obviously, we would not recommend that Billings residents visit this bar. For out-of-towners staying at the Holiday Inn, we would strongly recommend buying some beer at the gas station next door and retreating to your room (or the hot tub).

PROS
Null.

CONS
See above.

Previous reviews

Chapter 1The Squire Lounge.

Chapter 2The Alpine Casino.

Chapter 3Buck’s Bar.

Chapter 4Stadium Club.

Chapter 5Bones Arcade.

Chapter 6Southern Empire Emporium.

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