SHIOCTON, Wis. (WFRV) – The Shiocton community is grappling with the loss of an iconic landmark after the River Rail Bar & Banquet Hall burned down in a fire Wednesday night.
Rubble is the only thing that remains of the bar. Throughout the day on Thursday, hundreds of people stopped by to take a look at what remains, many of them told Local 5 News that they are longtime patrons of the iconic bar.
“We got married here, I love this place,” said Mindy Leiby of Shiocton who was one of the people who came out on Thursday afternoon to take a look at the rubble.
Iconic, legendary, and a place that brought people together were all words and phrases that kept coming up when Local 5 News asked people how they would describe the bar.
“You always made friends here, it’s big, it’s friendly, it’s on the river,” said Leiby. “I hope they rebuild. It’s just the atmosphere, it’s been here forever, everybody seems to have memories here.”
According to its website, River Rail Bar and Banquet Hall has been family owned and operated since 1983. Dick Wickesberg was the owner for most of those years before he had to close the bar in 2022. It reopened under new ownership about two months later.
The new owners, Codie and Casey Wegener, were at the bar on Thursday. They respectfully declined an interview, but did tell Local 5 News that their hope is to rebuild. They said right now they are evaluating whether doing that is feasible.
Dick Wickesberg, the former owner, was also at the bar on Thursday afternoon. He got emotional talking about the bar saying he put his heart and soul into operating it for 40 years.
He said he was at home when the fire happened and that his daughter came over and told him what was going on. He said seeing the bar on fire was very difficult.
“It was hard,” said Wickesberg. “I knew everybody in the community, and everybody knew the River Rail. It was like a gathering point in the community for a lot of people.”
Firefighters said they don’t know what caused the fire, but think that it began on the second floor of the building. They said nobody was hurt and that it took about 90 firefighters from 25 different fire departments to put out the flames.
“It’s such a beautiful location and it’s such a beautiful place to come have dinner, the food is great,” said Leiby. “It’s such a local place to be and it makes me sad that it’s gone.”
A link to a GoFundMe for the business can be found here.