Leinie Lodge

Kathy Danielson serves up a beer at the Leinie Lodge’s new bar on Thursday. A kickoff party is planned today for the new bar, which is triple the size of the old one. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

CHIPPEWA FALLS — With 120,000 visitors annually, the Leinie Lodge often had a space crunch around the bar, with customers standing several deep, waiting to sample the local brews.

So a new bar that is triple the size of the old one has been installed, allowing for the lodge to better serve the numerous visitors.

“This has been in the works for a year, in the design and concept,” said Leinie Lodge manager Lindsey Everson. “We tore down the old bar on April 13, and we poured our first beer for the public on May 31. We needed more space — we were six deep on Saturdays. We wanted to create a more comfortable space for our customers. It was really important for our customers, to get the optimal experience, that they could interact with our team.”

The remodel included lowering the ceiling above the bar to make it feel more intimate, and adding a copper finish to the floor.

“We wanted it to still feel like a lodge, with that rustic look, but we wanted to bring it up to date,” she said.

“We also put in the garage doors and opened it up a bit, so we could serve to the patio.”

The old bar was 30 feet long. The new one is 90 feet long as it wraps around. The space for the bartenders also features new dishwashers and improved location for workers to reach and move glasses, she added.

“We also expanded from 20 taps to 36 taps; we put in more than we needed,” Everson said. “We have 11 different beers on tap and 13 total.”

The 13,500-square-foot Leinie Lodge opened in its current location on June 15, 2003, at a cost of about $2 million. In the old lodge, adjacent to the brewery, they were averaging about 32,000 visitors annually. Visits jumped once the new lodge opened.

“We always keep track of how many people go through the tour, and that’s 90,000 a year who do the tour,” she said. “About 60 to 70 percent are from outside the area. And 70 percent is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It got pretty tight in here. We’ve been fortunate enough to see steady growth and we get feedback on the tours.”

The lodge has 75 employees, most part-time or seasonal workers. That doesn’t include the people working in the brewery.

Chippewa Falls Main Street executive director Teri Ouimette said the Leinie Lodge has a great tourism impact on the city.

“It’s such a staple in Chippewa Falls. It’s amazing what they’ve done,” Ouimette said. “The impact on all the businesses is just spectacular. They make the trip downtown, to our restaurants and shops.”

Plans for the new lodge were announced in September 2001. The lodge was built on a 2-acre site that once was the home of the Woolen Mill, across Duncan Creek from the brewery. To connect the brewery — and the tour — to the lodge, a 114-foot walking bridge was constructed over Duncan Creek.