BILLINGS — Jake's Downtown wouldn't normally be closed Thursday. Instead, the restaurant would be welcoming lunch and dinner rushes. But not this week, after Wednesday night’s stabbing sent three to the hospital and left dozens more with emotional scars over an event no one ever is prepared for.
"How do you know what to do in a situation like that?" asked Whitney Hove, a patron inside Jake's Wednesday night.
Hove and a friend were in the bar area when first responders swarmed the south entrance. Moments later, she saw why as injured employees were being tended to on the sidewalk right outside the windows.
"They had kitchen towels wrapped around everything as people were bleeding," Hove said Thursday. "And we’re like, ‘What’s going on?’”
It wasn’t until Hove noticed distraught employees back inside the restaurant that she started to put things together.
"I saw two staff members - I wasn't sure whether they were waitresses or hostesses - holding each other. They were clearly upset."
But even after learning of former employee Brandon Bird’s alleged actions, Hove says employees made sure guests felt as safe as possible.
"We were never in fear for our own safety," Hove said. "We didn’t know what was happening, and honestly, I don't think anyone really did. It's not like anyone was running out screaming. (Staff) kept it calm, and everyone just kind of exited."
That’s what Hove says she’ll never forget - the staff’s reaction to a bad situation that could have been much worse.
"After leaving and getting home, I texted my friend and said, ‘If it would have been a gun, nobody could have stopped him,’" Hove said. "He could have went in and hurt a bunch of people. I can't say enough about the staff at Jake's. I don’t know how they could have done a better job."
Jake’s management has called a meeting for Thursday morning to decide when the restaurant will re-open. For now, they said they're just thankful that all three victims that were taken to the hospital are ok.