RIVER FALLS -- A partnership between local businesses will keep Swinging Bridge Brewing Company alive in downtown River Falls, now as a brewpub.

Juniors and Swinging Bridge have joined together to reopen the brewery starting Wednesday, Feb. 26.

The brewery closed in September 2019 after more than two years in operation. Head brewer Mike O’Hara has returned, along with Juniors alum Cory Hart, who will now serve as the Swinging Bridge general manager.

Hart has been with Juniors for 11 years, and said they were excited when Swinging Bridge opened. He and O’Hara have known each other for years. O’Hara had his first date with his wife at Junior’s, and then held their wedding reception there.

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“We always had a really good relationship,” O’Hara said.

As a brewpub, Swinging Bridge will offer guest taps, cider and beer. It will also offer wine, thanks to a partnership with Forestville Vines. The partnership with the local winery worked out well, Hart said.

Brewing operations won’t start up right away. The business had to reapply for the brewing license through the state. Hart said he expects brewing will be back in the summer.

Hart said much of the place will stay the same, including the downtown location. Swinging Bridge will continue to be involved in the community as well, O’Hara said.

Community love

The community is the reason they worked to keep Swinging Bridge open. It provides a local place for craft beer, a large trend right now.

“The community loves this place,” O’Hara said.

“The most reassuring thing has been the outreach on social media,” Hart said.

Updates on the Swinging Bridge Brewing Company Facebook have racked up comments with people celebrating the return. The response shows are encouraging for the two.

“I’m looking forward to brewing beer again,” Hart said.

“Making the best beer possible in the area,” O’Hara said.

The people and relationships, though, are the best part of the business.

O’Hara said he likes the camaraderie found between businesses.

“We’re all in it for the same reasons but we don’t really consider ourselves competition,” he said.

Hart said his favorite aspect is the staff and guests, especially when he can recommend something new that they otherwise wouldn’t have experienced.

When they reopen on Feb. 26, they both said it would be for the long term.

“Absolutely,” Hart said.