Butte agency granting funds to aid in M&M building demolition

fire m and m.jpg
Posted at 4:55 PM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-05 11:08:08-04

BUTTE — A fire, reported at 3:30 a.m. on May 7, 2021, destroyed the iconic M&M building in uptown Butte.

The fire burned for several hours, leaving nothing behind but the burnt remains of what used to be the M&M.

The Butte-Silver Bow Urban Revitalization Agency (URA) received an estimate of the demolition costs and an application from the property owner for assistance.

"The URA district which is in place to assist people with redevelopment projects, removal of blight, life safety, code issues—those are our charges as an urban renewal district," said Karen Byrnes.

The demolition estimate is $239,000.

The URA awarded funds that cover 25 percent of the estimated cost.

The funds would cover $60,000 of the estimated cost.

"It’s a great support, but it’s not a blank check and it’s not just paid out. The work has to be complete and done and to the satisfaction of all of the entities that need to sign off on it and the permitting process," said Byrnes.

This isn’t the first project in Butte to receive funds from the URA to help cover demolition costs.

The controversial demolition of the historic cribs in the Blue Range building received $25,000 of grant funding from the URA.

The URA also granted $33,000 in funds to help cover the costs of demolishing the historic Greek café building in Uptown Butte.

"It’s a support of a project that if someone else came to us with the exact same project, we’d give the exact same award," said Byrnes.

The M&M's owner hasn't said when demolition work will start.

The May 7 fire at the famous Butte bar and cafe was so devastating that fire investigators say it’s likely the cause of the fire may be undetermined. The fire burned so hot that it collapsed the entire structure onto itself, making a final determination difficult.

“We have an idea where the fire started just by interviewing the firefighters who were first on scene and that was somewhere in the kitchen area, so we know the origin we just don't know the cause. And how we would ever find the cause now that everything is piled up on each other, that would prove difficult,” said Butte Fire Marshal Zach Osborne.

The M&M operated 24/7 for well over a hundred years. The doors were always unlocked. One story told that the owner flushed the keys down the toilet.

During prohibition, M&M followed other Butte bars and became a cigar store, using that as a front to hide a speakeasy that was operating in the backroom.

The gambling moved to a back room in the basement where poker tables and a keno cage operated.

When the eatery closed its doors in the 90s, Bud Walker and his son bought the building in 2004 and reopened it in 2005 after refurbishing the building. They received an offer they couldn’t refuse and sold the building.

Walker was there watching firefighters work to keep the flames controlled.

"It’s sad, it is. Before we even owned it you know it was a place we used to come all the time and it’s just it’s a sad thing," Walker said.

After Walker sold the building, the M&M was sold again this time to Selina Pankovich.


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The last great cigar store: the history of the M&M