Entrepreneurs Build 'Butt Huts' as Solution to Montana Smoking Ban

Two enterprising men think they have a good solution to a new state law prohibiting smoking inside public places.

The two are partnering to build metal smoking dugouts that can be placed outside businesses so smokers have a place to puff without violating the law and without exposing themselves to the weather.

"I call it the Butt Hut, but it's a dugout," welder Dave Golden said.

He and partner Jim Bell have built just one Butt Hut, which is now behind the Rhino Bar in downtown Missoula. But they believe other bars may soon come calling for their own.

The Butt Huts are about 4-by-8-foot and open on both ends, with a solid roof and a Plexiglas front window. It has a bench seat wide enough for five or six people.

"We just saw what was happening with the bars and smoking and figured they were going to need some place for their customers to go," said Bell, a general contractor who usually builds custom homes.

The statewide smoking ban went into effect this week, banning smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

Rhino Bar co-owner Brad Martens said both he and his employees support the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act, but that doesn't mean he's ready to punt on his smoking clients.

"They're not secondhand citizens," he said. "They're great people."

The Rhino has been one of the holdout bars in terms of smoking; some Missoula bars banned smoking ahead of the deadline. Martens figures he's gained a few customers because of that, and he's not anxious to lose them now that the ban has taken effect.

Thus, the Butt Hut.

"What could be better than a dugout?" he said with a laugh. "It'll be better than just standing out in the weather."