It's been a rough year for the restaurant business nationally and around Billings. Social distancing mandates meant less seating capacity for eateries and many people have decided to skip eating out altogether or ordering to-go, which often cut down on revenue from in-store alcohol sales. Even when the state decided to relax its liquor-to-go rules, the combination of fewer diners and fewer alcohol sales and generally unfavorable operating conditions have taken a hit on many bars, cafes, and restaurants around Yellowstone County.

Credit: Michael Foth ~ Townsquare Media Billings

The latest restaurant that I found out had closed was Beartooth Grill, next to IGA in Laurel. They closed their doors for good after last weekend. I caught up with the owner, Bobbi Powers, who happened to be at the location cleaning and prepping the place for locked doors. She said it was the pandemic that forced them to close. Not enough people eating out the past six months and being unable to serve a full restaurant were two big obstacles they simply couldn't survive. I asked if they were auctioning off equipment or selling the building as-is, with all fixtures and appliances, and she said they are considering all options.

Credit: Michael Foth ~ Townsquare Media Billings

The Laurel Hardee's also closed permanently a few weeks ago. Some blame its demise on the new Wendy's in town. Others have reported poor food quality and service for some time, with one recent Google reviewer stating, "Worst fast food experience I've ever had. Don't eat here, you'll regret it."

Credit: Michael Foth ~ Townsquare Media Billings

Mabel's Mexican Restaurant in Laurel has been closed since at least 2019, but some Laurel residents have held hope that someone will re-open what was formerly a good spot for authentic Mexican fare. Those hopes vanished in recent weeks as the building is undergoing a face-lift. Unfortunately, it will not be a new restaurant. It's being converted to residential units.

Read on for 11 food places that have closed in Billings in 2020. It's not all bad news... a couple of them have - or will be - reopened.

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If you can think of any we missed, let us know and we'll add them to our list.