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PHOTOS BY WAYNE TIDWELL

Closed wooden bridge in Jasper hurts long-time restaurant icon

By Wayne Tidwell, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The closing of the wooden bridge on Main Street in Jasper has wreaked havoc on the Woodbridge Inn’s restaurant business according to owner Hans Rueffert. By the time the bridge is repaired and reopened, it will be almost six months that his business has been down 35 to 40 percent, with many people assuming the restaurant is closed.

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The closed sign at the entry to the bridge has confused customers about whether the
restaurant is open.

“We had so many people assuming that because the wood bridge was closed we were closed,” Rueffert said. “We put a sign up at the bridge that read ‘restaurant open’ and the Mayor (John Weaver) picked it up and brought it back to our property and said that he couldn’t have a tacky homemade sign on the bridge.”

Weaver said it was against Jasper’s sign ordinance, according to Rueffert.

The bridge has been safe for pedestrian traffic and is a short walk from parking on Main Street. Rueffert has posted a sign saying that the restaurant is open but difficult to see unless you are in front of the restaurant. Signs were also needed to alert folks that there was a detour route to get to the restaurant. The detour route begins at the first right after the bridge which brings the driver to Chambers Street where the restaurant is located. Another route is from west on Church Street, right on the road before the former Piggly Wiggly then left on Birch Street.

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The Woodbridge Inn Restaurant with open sign.

 

The bridge is pedestrian safe and a quick walk from Main Street
parking.

Rueffert asserts that it didn’t have to take as long to fix the bridge but there has been little action by the city, which is responsible for maintaining the bridge.

“We were told that it would take two months max and now we are told that construction will begin no later than September 14 and it is only a four-day job,” Rueffert said he was told.

“The city had to close it [the wooden bridge] because they got a letter from the department of transportation (DOT) that said “we have to close it,’” according to Rueffert. “But they had gotten a letter six months earlier saying that they [City of Jasper] need to replace a couple of boards and if it is done now we won’t have to close the bridge. It was never acknowledged and never acted upon and so whatever time period they gave them [Jasper] to fix it rolled over and they [DOT] were there that day and said you didn’t fix it so we have to close it.”

It was announced at the August 3 Jasper city council work session that a bid of $44,000 was received, and that was approved at the August 7 council meeting.

The bridge was built in 1912, the same year as the sinking of the Titanic, and some of the original timbers are still part of the bridge. The Inn was once a popular summer escape for Floridians who came for cooler weather.

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Detour sign on Main Street just past the Woodbridge Inn at Old Federal.

Rueffert says the restaurant and inn are about to face the busiest month with the fall leaves and hopes the bridge will be open for this event.

“It’s been a tough row to hoe,” he said. “We need the city to rally around us.”

He said they were already recovering from a water main break that covered the area in December. Without water he had to close all 18 rooms in the inn that were booked for three nights as well as multiple Christmas parties.

“That cost us about $10 grand in revenue,” Rueffert said. “A mom and pop business can’t shoulder a $10 grand loss of revenue.”

Rueffert said the Woodbridge Inn Restaurant is reasonably priced with excellent food prepared by new “fantastic” chef David Morrison who was at Milton’s Restaurant in Milton, Ga. He said it was not just a special occasion restaurant but just another dinner option.

“There is a misconception that we are some crazy expensive restaurant but we are in reality right in line with any of the Outback, Longhorn, O’Charley’s restaurants,” Rueffert said.

He also has a “Tuesday Ten,” with $10 specials and “packs them in” on Tuesday’s.

He said he needs help to stay open.

“We need customers to realize that our fate is sorta in their hands,” Rueffert said. “We have been sitting here saying ‘where is everybody?’”

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Cozy and Quaint, the Woodbridge Inn Restaurant has been serving customers for decades.

Owned and operated by the Rueffert family since 1976, the unique restaurant and inn has been featured on “Food Network,” “CNN,” “Georgia Traveler,” “The Doctors” and several regional television shows. It has also been in the pages of “Southern Living,” “Georgia Magazine,” “Atlanta Magazine,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and more. 

Located at 44 Chambers St., Jasper, phone: 770-253-8500, the restaurant menu and business hours can be found at thewoodbridgeinn.com.

Editor’s Note: Smoke Signals attempts to reach Mayor Weaver this Labor Day weekend were unsuccessful. We will continue to make every effort to get his side of the bridge story and update the article as we receive any new information or response from Mayor Weaver.

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