The Do Bar has a long-engrained history in the Great Falls community. Here is a look back on that history, told by Lexi Jones, fifth generation family owner of The Do’s legacy.
Sebastiano and Carmelinda Palagi immigrated from Italy in the late 1800’s and eventually settled down in Black Eagle, MT to raise their four children. Carmelinda was widowed when the kids were young, but married Bartolomeo, and they opened Bart’s Bar after prohibition off the side of their house. One of Carmelinda’s sons, Julius, grew up working in this bar. Then in 1939, Julius and his wife Helen Palagi followed into the family business. They built and opened the H & J Tavern, now the Black Eagle Country Club. Check out their delicious H & J Burger still on their menu in honor of Helen and Julius!
Helen and Julius had a son named Kenneth. Ken grew up to marry Edna Mae, and the two followed Helen and Julius’ footsteps into the bar business. Over the years they built and owned many local Great Falls haunts, including Pension Bar, The Red Door, Stockman’s Bar, Hi-Ho Tavern, and the Riverview Lounge. In the early 1960’s they built the Cartwheel Lounge from the ground up on the lot where Ken’s grandparents (Helen’s parents) home once stood! In 1984, Ken and Edna purchased the It’l Do Lounge in the old Westgate Mall.
In 1991, Ken made a call to his son Douglas Julius, who was in the casino business in Reno, Nevada. Ken was looking to sell. Doug and his then-pregnant wife, Darlene, made the leap and moved back and became the fourth generation to enter the family business. For 20 years Doug and Darlene ran the It’l Do Lounge and Casino. My sister, Shaye, and I, quite literally grew up there. We were held by customers who loved on us while our parents worked, spent time with friends, or helped others. We played hours and hours of pool and did lots of dishes for the bartending crew.
In 2011, Doug and Darlene found out the Westgate Mall was being sold, and the It’l Do Lounge would be gone within the next year.
Shaye, Darlene, and I did what any sane person would do. We got tattoos that said “It’l Do”!! Although the future initially looked uncertain and frightening, the closure of the Westgate Mall serendipitously aligned with the sale of the lot across the street – the old Pin N’ Cue bowling alley, beloved by many who grew up on the westside. Doug and Darlene partnered with Doug’s brother K.C. and his wife Terri to transform the Pin N’ Cue.
After months of remodeling and prepping, The Do Bar opened for the first time the night before Thanksgiving in 2012. This opening didn’t happen because it was planned for that date or posted about on Facebook. They were close to being ready to open, and that night friends and family just started showing up. More and more cars in the parking lot meant more and more people stopped in. Before the nights end the bar was packed and The Do would be considered open!
Now years later I manage and co-owns The Do Bar with her father Doug. Her husband Zakk, who has a full-time job, is in the Air National Guard and is a fly-fishing guide part time, also bartends when we’re short staffed. Our son Walker Douglas loves being a pool shark himself, runs up and down the length of the bar, waving hi to everyone while stealing a pickle or olive to snack on. Our daughter Lucy Mae will be chasing after him soon.
The Do Bar is family. Six generations strong in this industry (okay, okay… I’m counting Walker but he’ll be doing dishes soon enough!). I am proud of every customer and employee here and all the ups and downs we have gone through together. Their struggles are our struggles, their happiness is our happiness. We’ve cried, laughed, fought, made it through COVID, losing customers who will impact us forever (love you Billy), the difficulty of managing generational changes, and the list goes on and on.
We are SO DAMN THANKFUL. To every single person who has supported us along the way. The Do on any given day still has the Cheers bar vibe. Everyone knows everyone. We check in on each other, on our families. We ask each other for favors, gather here together for holidays, mourn the loss of loved ones, hear about new grandbabies taking their first steps, celebrate military homecomings for close friends that have been serving our country overseas. On many nights a family has rented out the banquet hall for a wedding, a birthday, or a celebration of life for a loved one we’ve lost. And then you come here on a Friday night and the place has a different but equally fun vibe, music flows through the speakers inside the main bar, with an awesome local band rocking out on the patio. This place is more than just a bar, it’s a place that feels like home to so many. Where we know we can come for a cold drink, and a friend will always be there to chat. We truly could not feel luckier to be on this journey with you all.