Long-time Big Sky business to close over legal dispute


BIG SKY, Mont. - A popular Big Sky business says it's being forced to close its doors by an out-of-state developer. The Corral Bar, Steakhouse and Motel has been in business since 1946.

Here's some background on the dispute: Parts of the restaurant including the septic system actually sit on land of an out-of-state developer owns. The developer and the Corral had an agreement until 2009 to allow the restaurant to use the property. Then, the developer sued in 2010, saying the Corral was trespassing on the land.

The District Court ruled in favor of the restaurant, but late last year, the Montana State Supreme Court reversed that decision, and ruled the Corral didn't qualify to stay on the land.

Now, the Corral Restaurant owner says the developer wants him to remove everything from the property by June 15, and he's scrambling to figure out what they can do, and if they can save their business.

Amy Ditullio has been a server at the Corral for 13 years.

"This place is definitely more than a job," she explained. "It's a family atmosphere, and it always has been."

The corral has been a staple in the Big Sky community since 1946, and depending on the season, employs between 25 and 40 people. But in just more than a week, Ditullio could be out of a job, and the restaurant closed down.

"I do have to work," she said. "I have a family to support, so I don't know where I'll go."

The land the building sits on belongs to White and his business partner. But their septic tank, a storage shed, and other parts of the business sit on land owned by Wisconsin developer Larry Burcalow, and White said Burcalow's telling them they have to get out.

"We thought everything was going to work out," White said.

Burcalow bought the property in the late 1990s from the Forest Service. At the time, the Corral had a special permit from the Forest Service to use the land.

Burcalow and White cut a deal to keep it that way until 2009, and when the agreement expired, White said that's when the legal battle started.

"Everything that's been in the last 4 or 5 years has all been through attorneys," White said. "There's been no personal contact between us and him."

White said Burcalow gave them a June 15 deadline to be off his property. Moving everything would cost more money than the Corral can afford, and they can't stay open without the things on Burcalow's property, like the septic system.

"We lose everything, we can't operate, we're done, we're out of business," White said.

White is still hopeful something can get worked out so the restaurant doesn't have to close.

We called Burkalow, but heard nothing back from the developer.

The Big Sky community is rallying to help the business. A Facebook page created on Wednesday called 'Friends of the Corral in Big Sky' has more than 2,200 likes.

The Corral Bar is hosting a dance next Friday.