November promises to be a big month for The Bridge Tavern & Grill as they celebrate their grand reopening following several months of major renovations. You’ve likely noticed a flurry of activity at the corner of 10th and Main Streets all summer as “everything old became new again” at the Bridge.
The tavern, located adjacent to the Suspension Bridge at 950 Main Street in downtown Wheeling, has been a fixture there for more than 60 years. Originally founded by the Dormas family, the Bridge was purchased in 2019 by another Wheeling family, the Carls. Brothers Mike and Doug and their spouses, Elisha Carl and Sumner Riddick, now operate the historic bar and grill. The Carls have invested several million dollars to restore the entire building to usable space. The three upper stories now house apartments, office space, and an Airbnb, while the first floor is home to the newly updated restaurant.
A Family Affair
Doug and Mike always dreamed of owning a bar that offered great music with a bit of a Nashville vibe. But it took many years before the brothers took the leap and made that dream come true. “Our Dad, Bob, thought we were nuts to be starting a new venture this late in the game,” Doug shared with a smile. But Bob supported his boys’ vision, stopping in many mornings to hang out, have a cup of coffee with his sons and deliver fresh produce from his garden. Bob also loved to visit the bar with his wife Doty to enjoy the bands and a cold pint. Sadly, Bob passed away in 2022 and didn’t get to see the renovations to completion, but his spirit can be felt in the bar where photos of him and Doty grace the walls. “Dad is always present,” said Doug. Family is obviously important to the Carls, and they aim to make their patrons feel like family when they visit.
So, What’s New?
The redesigned space will still feel familiar to long-time patrons of the Bridge. But they will also notice some big changes, the most major being the relocation of the kitchen. For years, customers could watch their food being prepared on the grill in the main dining area. The new state-of-the-art kitchen is now in its own separate and dedicated space. “The magic now happens behind the wall,” laughed Doug. General Manager Joe Beers added that all the Bridge’s food is homemade and hand-crafted to be delicious.
The Bridge Tavern before renovations were underway in 2019. (photo provided by Doug Carl.)
The Bridge Tavern in 2023. (photo provided by Doug Carl.)
The kitchen staff is gearing up to serve both old menu favorites and some new surprises. “We are planning a weekly rotating dinner entree on Fridays and Saturdays,” Doug stated. He said customers can rest assured there will also still be chili, a fall and winter fan favorite. Sunday brunch will also return sometime early next year.
The most eye-catching new features are the two murals created by local artists. Gracing the kitchen wall on the inside of the restaurant is a Suspension Bridge mural by Vondel Bell. Outside the building on Main Street, the Jamboree-themed mural by Drew Gonchoff is visible to everyone entering the downtown area. “Both Vondel and Drew are in the homestretch of finishing their artwork,” Doug told Weelunk.
The old main door of the restaurant is now home to the new stage area, which will host a full schedule of entertainment in the coming months. The bar entrance is now on 10th Street just around the corner from the now-iconic neon guitar sign. Further down, a new blue awning marks the entrance for those visiting the dining room side of the establishment. Doug said guests will now be seated from a new hostess station near that entrance. The entrance to The Terminal Room, the Bridge’s event space, is the door closest to the parking garage. Though the ongoing downtown streetscape project is a bit of a hindrance, both Doug and Mike are excited to see those improvements come to fruition. In the meantime, as street work progresses, the Carls are working with the streetscape contractor to ensure that their doors will remain accessible during business hours.
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Doug Carl is grateful to the Bridge’s patrons for their support during the renovations.
The renovations blend old and new to create a warm and welcoming space (Photo provided by Doug Carl).
This new mural graces the wall of the state-of-the-art kitchens.
Thanks to support from the Wheeling Arts Commission a mural has also been added to the front of The Bridge Tavern along Main Street, designed by Drew Conchoff (photo by Wheeling Heritage Media).
The U-shaped bar itself remains the same as it’s been for years, but new flooring and tables have been installed. The old windows that frosted in cold weather much like beer mugs have been replaced with insulated glass panels that allow the stage to be viewed by passing motorists and pedestrians. Mike and Doug hope this will attract new patrons to upcoming performances. The large new windows give the tavern a bit of a big-city feel, especially after dark.
Several shows are planned between now and year’s end. On Saturday, November 4, the Bridge will host local favorites Hoard and Jones. Bluegrass lovers are in for a treat when The Roadhog Band performs on Saturday, November 18. Regionally-renowned act The Kevin Prater Band takes the stage on Saturday, December 2. On Saturday, December 16, patrons can celebrate with an Irish Christmas show featuring Faire May. Seats go quickly for these performances, and reservations are recommended.
Mark Your Calendars for Mid-November!
There have been some hiccups and delays in the planned grand reopening, and the Carl brothers are still waiting for some finishing touches to be completed in the kitchen. While the bar is now open from 4 – 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday with a limited cold menu, Doug is hopeful that they can resume their regular lunch and dinner service around November 10. Follow the Bridge’s Facebook page for updates and more information. You can also call them at 304-232-1900 for reservations or to book The Terminal Room for your upcoming event. This beautiful space can seat up to 45 guests for any special occasion. In addition, the upstairs Airbnb will be available beginning later this year and can be reserved by visiting the Airbnb website.
General Manager Joe Beers creates a hand-crafted cocktail.
General Manager Joe Beers creates a hand-crafted cocktail.
Doug was quick to thank his staff and patrons for bearing with them during construction. “We are anxious to get back to being fully open,” he said. “We truly appreciate all the support from our friends and customers during the renovations.” Mike agreed. “We can’t thank our patrons enough for their patience and support,” he remarked.
Make plans to visit the Bridge this fall and enjoy a hot meal, a great show and a refreshing cocktail. After all, it’s five o’clock somewhere, and at the Bridge, “happy” is always more than an hour!
• Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a lifelong resident of Wheeling and a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School, where she discovered her love of writing as a member of the yearbook staff. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management at the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she utilizes that degree at the international law firm where she is employed. After work, you can find her relaxing with family, friends, and her clowder of cats.