New parking in downtown Guttenberg

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City employees are constructing a new parking lot in partnership with owners of the Dam Bar in Guttenberg. The public lot will provide 12-17 new parking spaces for the downtown shopping district. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

Public parking will soon be available in a new lot located at 431 S. River Park Drive, just outside the doorway of the Dam Bar in Guttenberg. 

The lot, which is owned by the city, will add 12-17 new parking spaces for Dam Bar customers and anyone visiting Guttenberg's downtown businesses. 

"It is a public-private venture with a 50/50 cost share," said City Manager Mary Willett. "We had to wait for the permit from the DNR Sovereign lands. The Army Corps of Engineers did not require us to obtain a permit from them."

Dam Bar co-owners Travis Olson and his father, Jeff Olson, worked with the city government for several months to get the project started. "The city has been wonderful with getting permits and doing the work," said Jeff. The lower driveway is being raised six feet to make it level with the doorway to the bar, with city workers adding fill and layers of block. 

There will be a small raised guard providing some protection from the riverbank, and the shoreline is also being repaired. "When the barges come through they tear the bank away, so this will re-solidify the bank, too," said Olson.

Unusually warm winter weather during the past several weeks helped the project progress quickly. Next spring, part of the lot will be blacktopped for handicap accessibility.

The Dam Riverview Cafe closed in November and food is now being served downstairs in the Dam Bar. Since the indoor staircase is no longer accessible, some customers have had trouble walking down the steep hillside or the narrow outdoor stairway. "The parking lot has to be done so that we have parking down below," said Olson. "Our elderly just cannot get down there."

While the Dam Bar sports a revamped menu and several aesthetic updates, residents are still curious about the possibilities for the now vacant space upstairs.

"I've had all kinds of people inquire about it," said Olson. "We would really like to see a steakhouse come in." Unless a new restaurant is found to fill the void upstairs, he and his son plan to move the kitchen from the restaurant upstairs to the bar downstairs in April. 

"If we could find a steakhouse to come in, we'd leave the kitchen intact upstairs," Olson told The Press. "I've had a couple of chances to rent it out for retail businesses, and I've tabled them for now because I'd really like to see a steakhouse. You've got Timmerman's in Dubuque, the Black Angus in Prairie du Chien - that leaves a very wide path of population that could support a steakhouse here, and it would not affect us downstairs. In fact, it would be very complementary for both. That would be our number one goal."

Meanwhile, the astounding view of river life from the windows of the historic restaurant goes unseen. Whether or not a steakhouse opens above, the Olsons plan to refinish the deck on the lower level and open it for eating this spring, making the Dam Bar the only outdoor eating venue in town.

The new parking lot is expected to be finished within the next several weeks, depending on the weather.

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