In the just more than three years since Mike Tourville opened his River Rat Brewery at 1231 Shop Road, the business has expanded three times, increasing the craft brewery’s capacity and seating and replacing a bottling line with a canning line.
It may be his fourth expansion, however, that creates the biggest buzz: a suspended rooftop bar that will offer panoramic views of Williams-Brice Stadium, Owens Field and downtown Columbia.
“It’s going to be some really cool engineering,” Tourville said.
One of the coolest components of the bar may be the way patrons will get up to it — in a stairwell enclosed in a refurbished 30-foot grain silo.
“We’re going to have spaces cut out of the sides along the way so folks will get these really cool views on the way up,” said Tourville, who collaborated with engineer Bert Shuler on the project. “It’s going to be a very iconic art feature.”
Once customers go through the grain bin, they will be at the bar, which will be suspended five feet above the highest rooftop and supported by columns. The space will accomodate 49 people and will include a covered bar and open-air seating along with features such as mister fans, canopies and infrared heaters to make the space comfortable year round. The space is only for adults 21 and older but, like the brewery’s patio and deck space, can be rented out for private parties, Tourville said.
Tourville received the permit for the project last week, and framing has already started on the space. In addition to the rooftop addition, River Rat will also be getting a full kitchen, complete with fryers and a six-burner range, and a smokehouse to allow the brewery to produce even more of its customer-favorite foods of brisket and pork. A conveyor system will transport the food up to the rooftop.
“Our food program has grown so much,” Tourville said. “We do a lot with our smoker and prep kitchen. A full kitchen will only expand our portfolio and allow us to add brunch and, down the road, lunch. We'll also be adding liquor by the glass but that will mostly be for private events and brunch. It won't be a full-fledged liquor bar. Our focus is still beer.”
Tourville hopes to have the additions completed in September.