Some had suggested naming the City Bar “Last Chance” when it opened in 1939, since it was so far out of downtown Great Falls. Charlie and Anna Watson bought the lot for $500, putting up the small building with a massive Brunswick back bar and two doors opening onto Central Avenue. Not far away was their first establishment, the Montana Bar, which they had owned since 1933. In the depth of the Depression, the Watsons had kept business going with a menu of hot beef sandwiches, chili, Coney Islands, tamales, and hardboiled eggs. Likewise, food at the City Bar attracted patrons.

In 1955, the Watsons’ sons, Robert and William, took over the City Bar, and in 1976 they oversaw the building’s expansion. Later, William’s son, Brad, became the third generation Watson to run the bar, taking ownership of the business with his wife, Barb. Their son, Tanner, is the fourth generation to own the business. The family runs it to this day, maintaining City Bar’s reputation of having great food, refreshing drinks, and downtown’s largest casino.

Though much has changed since 1939, many of City Bar’s longstanding traditions have remained. Bartenders, for instance, have worn white shirts and ties since the day City Bar opened.

One holiday tradition that draws people to the City Bar every year is the sale of Tom & Jerry drink batter. Every holiday season, the Watsons (and staff) break and separate 20,000 eggs by hand, add one ton of sugar, and mix in various secret ingredients to produce the popular beverage. This annual ritual has been going on since the early 1940s. Now City Bar produces roughly 1,200 gallons a year! Tom & Jerrys will be available the first week of November and continue being sold through New Year’s. Patrons can stop in for a hot, frothy mug at the bar or take the batter to go. It comes in several sizes and now ships around the country.

The family also continued their tradition of family-run businesses in the summer of 2023 when they opened the Grand Slam Casino in Great Falls. “It had everything to do with opening it up with my son,” says Brad, proving the family connection is still holding strong after more than eighty years.

Tanner agrees, “It’s kind of special when you get to work with your parents every day. Yeah, it’s hard sometimes, but there aren’t a lot of people who can say that they are a fourth- generation business owner.”

Though the new casino is not an extension of City Bar, the Watsons intend to run it with the same management experience that has kept them in business so long. “One thing my dad always taught me is you have to have good service, and we’re gonna have good service,” Brad explains.

Grand Slam Casino is located at 2416 11th Ave S. in Great Falls.

City Bar is located at 709 Central Avenue in Great Falls. For more information, visit or call (406) 761-9432.

Interested in Advertising?

You've made a great decision! Send us a message and we'll be in touch.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt