The 1939 Works Progress Administration Montana, a State Guide Book characterized Bozeman  as “an old and decorous town. Local ordinances prohibit dancing anywhere after midnight and in beer halls at any time. It is illegal to drink beer while standing, so all Bozeman bars are equipped with stools.”
Well, things have loosened up a little bit since the 1930s. College students have a nasty habit of standing up to drink, and the electronic gaming machines now endemic in bars threaten to make barstools obsolete.
At the Crystal Bar (123 E. Main St., 406/587-2888), both the decor and decorum sometimes seem a bit tenuous. This Main Street fixture was once dominated by cowboys, but now students and tourists join the mix. Crystal’s rooftop terrace is surrounded by chicken wire to keep patrons from tossing beer bottles onto the sidewalk below.
At the classy but relaxed Rockin’ R (211 E. Main St., 406/587-9355), the mixed crowd is usually sprinkled with poets and lefties.
Head down to the corner of Main and Rouse, to the old Bozeman Hotel building, to find the Zebra Club (15 N. Rouse Ave., 406/585-8851) with cocktails and indie bands.
Head north to the Filling Station VFW (2005 N. Rouse Ave., 406/587-5009) for music from local bands, many playing alternative Western music. It’s also at least a quasi-official stop for scores of Harley riders on their way to the annual Harley-Davidson Festival in Sturgis, South Dakota.
The Cat’s Paw (721 N. 7th Ave., 406/586-3542) is a band bar with enough space to sponsor big shows; it’s also a casino with a popular card room.