Face to Face: Kyle Riggs with the new Pangea bar and restaurant in Missoula

A new bar and restaurant in downtown Missoula was slated to make its grand debut back in March, at least until the coronavirus pandemic hit. After months of work and internal construction, the plans were placed on pause.

But Kyle Riggs and the team at Pangea defied the odds and persevered.

“We started construction last September,” he said. “We were scheduled to open on March 20, but due to COVID, that was the week we literally pulled the plug. We were down for a few weeks, but now we’ve been open for about (three) weeks.”

Riggs, who serves as a business partner and the restaurant’s general manager, was born and raised in Montana. He began working in the restaurant industry at the age of 16 and has stuck with it ever since, including a 17-year stint with the Iron Horse and two years as the wine sommelier at Paws Up.

He became involved with Pangea two years ago and is now a partner in the business.

After so much work and planning, it was somewhat discouraging to place Pangea’s opening plans on hold. But Riggs said the business has cleared the tunnel and is doing well, even if circumstances are different now than they were before the virus hit.

“I feel we’re in a good spot because we were about to go, so it was a little easier to walk way,” he said. “I feel terrible for people who literally had to walk away from product and staff and things like that. We didn’t have to dump thousands of dollars of beer down the drain, for example.”

The new 10,000 square foot restaurant caters in global fusion. It also includes a separate speakeasy, the Stave & Hoop, down below. Other business partners include Scott Billadeau, Chad Morgan and Skyle Sisco.

Business has been good, Riggs said.

“There’s definitely not as many people downtown, and that’s obvious, but being the new kid on the block, we’ve been full every night,” he said. “Things have been going great. We have two different restaurants here. Pangea on the main floor and then Stave & Hoop – the prohibition era-style speakeasy underneath. Both spaces have been filling up for us.”

With the coronavirus still lurking within the larger population, the business has taken precautions to keep its facility clean, going so far as to hire a clean team and its atomizer. Tables are marked as freshly sanitized between customers, and seating is properly distanced.

While the long-term economic impacts of the virus may not be known for months, Riggs said, the new business has its eye on the trends and has plans to adapt if and when it’s necessary.

“It’s definitely in the back of our minds – what’s going to happen next?” he said. “For us, it was an opportunity, because we were down for a while, to adjust our thinking. We’re starting from the ground up, so every day is like a soft opening for us. We’ve got a nice, slow star, and now we can ramp up.”