Iconic Uptown Butte bar, restaurant faces legal trouble


BUTTE, Mont. - An iconic bar and restaurant in Butte is facing legal trouble. We're digging into the possible financial fallout for the M&M Cigar Store in Uptown. The place has a rich history. It opened in 1890 and gained popularity as Butte's '24-hour' bar and restaurant. It was open continuously for 113 years until 2003 when the business went bankrupt.

The M&M reopened in 2005. Then-Governor Brian Schweitzer hand delivered the bar's liquor license. It closed again in 2009.

In May 2011, current owner Sam Jankovich opened the doors. But now, he's facing legal problems.

Early Sunday morning, a representative from a local employment agency came into his restaurant with a police officer and a court order and took $9,000 from the till.

"They did come in and get the proceeds that were owed to them," said Jankovich. "I was going to make current on that agreement right after Evel Days on Monday. Unfortunately they decided to come a day early."

We tracked the problem through court papers and found a lawsuit filed in 2012. It's focused on Express Employment's temporary workers hired by Jankovich. Jankovich claimed the workers didn't cut it; Express fired back.

This January, both sides agreed to dismiss the lawsuit. In return Jankovich would pay $62,000.

Jankovich started making payments this February, but seven months in, he is two months behind. Jankovich said he stopped making payments in May, right when the NorthWestern Energy construction began just across the street from the M&M, causing his revenue to plummet.

But Express Employment said it's too bad.

"I've been in business in Butte for 15 years," said Express owner Jason Manning. "And this is the one event that shook the tree the worst."

Manning isn't the only one frustrated -- after digging through court documents, we found that Young Electric Sign Company is also suing Jankovich, saying he still owes them $10,000. The company's threatening to take down the historic M&M sign if it doesn't pay up, and Jankovich is fighting back.

We uncovered that the state claims he owes $3,000 in back taxes.

For Jankovich, it adds up to a financial nightmare.

"It's presented a very significant hardship on our business," said Jankovich, "We just plan to survive the best we can."

Jankovich said he's coming up with creative ways to cut costs and bring in lost business.

Manning said his lawyer will most likely meet with Jankovich to come up with a new payment plan.