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Montys Tavern reborn as upscale establishment

First-time bar owner Billy Schmitz adopts Beaverton as his new home and takes on a big makeover project
by: Jaime Valdez Billy Schmitz, the new owner of Billy’s Bar, located in the spot on Canyon Road that used to house Monty’s Tavern, shows off the newly refurbished back bar. He vows to be here at all times to greet patrons.

Billy Schmitz has created a beautiful swan of a business in downtown Beaverton that used to be the ugly duckling known as Monty's Tavern.

The little place on Canyon Road, just a half-block west of Cedar Hills Boulevard, is still going to be a drinking spot, mind you, but also an upscale restaurant, says Schmitz, who is quick to admit that he's never owned a bar before.

It's called Billy's Bar, and it opens Sept. 1.

'It's kind of going to be like an old English pub,' says Schmitz as he shows visitors around the newly scrubbed, remodeled, repainted and downright reborn eatery. 'There's going to be good food, but we're not going to be fancy,' he vows.

Well, compared to what it looked like before, it will be pretty fancy.

The owner of the building, the Lake family (which operated Lake's Plumbing in this space before it became Monty's) paid to have the establishment's centerpiece - a massive back bar consisting of wooden pillars, arches and three huge mirrors - thoroughly cleaned and refurbished, along with the matching bar.

Rumor has it that the back bar came to Monty's from the Hotel Hoyt in Portland's Old Town in the early 1960s, but Schmitz can't verify that. He knows what it did to him emotionally, though, even though the joint was pretty rough when he got his first look.

'I heard about this place, and I came by,' says Schmitz, attempting to recreate the bizarre turn of events that ended with him in the food and drink business. 'I saw it, and that was about it.'

'Do not sign that lease'

Commerce was not entirely new to him, he confesses. He'd operated a design business for some time, and even had his own international rug line.

'I had a couple of years off, and I wanted to get back into a working environment,' he says.

Once he'd made up his mind to buy the place, he was about the only one he knew who thought it was a good idea, says Schmitz.

'All of my friends took me out to dinner and said, 'Really, do not sign that lease - you've just totally lost your mind.''

Of course, he didn't listen.

He signed the papers and started tearing the old place apart, took out some walls and basically gutted the old Monty's. And, with the advice of a friend from Hayden's Grill in Tualatin, he installed an open kitchen in the center of it all, put new earth-tone colors on the walls, ceiling and floor, and brought in tables and chairs and other goodies, like light fixtures and chandeliers, that he found at the Beaverton Restore, a recycling place operated by Habitat for Humanity.

'I used 16 pounds of TSP (heavy-duty cleaner) because there was so much nicotine build-up,' says Schmitz. The orange gunk 'just ran down the walls.'

'We just wanted to make it a little more hip and interesting,' says Schmitz, pointing to the ceramic-covered gas stove in the corner, the tall table that used to be a shuffleboard game and the overflow dining space in the back where groups will be able to meet.

There will be live music, he says - most likely small jazz outfits that don't need much room.

'It's definitely going to be upscale,' he says.

'Totally smoke-free'

Even as he talks, builders from Mark Hamm's Kustom Yard Klutter of Banks are out back turning what used to be parking space into a groovy new patio with freshly finished wooden tables, benches and a nice high privacy fence for an outdoor dining and drinking area.

A place for smokers to gather? Nope, he says.

'It's going to be totally smoke-free.'

Schmitz, 48 and originally from Portland, has pretty much adopted Beaverton as his new home. He's joined the chamber, and he says there will be an official ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 24 with the mayor on hand.

'We're not trying to build a chateau, but we're trying to build something for Beaverton,' says Schmitz, adding that he has hired chef Angelo Turner from Gravy on North Mississipi to run the kitchen.

Billy's will be open for lunch, happy hour, dinner 'and will close around 11 or 12,' says the new owner.

'My theme for the bar is 'things we used to move through life,'' he says, pointing to a high shelf that runs around the bar's interior walls. Already perched up there are skates, a bicycle and other modes of transportation.

Outside, where a satellite dish points straight up at the sky, ready to beam sports into the bar, Schmitz says he plans to turn that functional bit of distraction into a big martini glass, to reinforce what's going on inside - and yet with a touch of class.