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River Oaks' Eagles restaurant adds emphasis to events

Participants get to work on their pieces at the Wood and Wine event Nov. 3. Photo courtesy of River Oaks Golf Course and Events Center

An emphasis on events and specials has helped push the Eagles Bar and Grill into slight revenue increases.

The third quarter earnings showed about a 1 percent increase over the 2016 third quarter, an uptick that staff have in part attributed to more events.

The Arts Commission launched wine and sip — a painting class that comes with wine for participants — over the summer, and since then other creative events have been popping up at River Oaks.

Since September, Sheree Shuler has been working part-time as events specialist at the Eagles, and has lined up programming for the space into the future months.

Eagles Manager Dennis Neitz — who also started in August — said they are hoping to schedule two events at the course each month.

"Unless you're involved in a wedding or ... something there, you might not even know the event space is there," Shuler said, and this is a way to bring more people to the site.

So far, November and December are both fully programmed.

There was a wood and wine craft party Nov. 3 that over 40 people signed up for, taught by Stillwater business Sawdust Savvy.

For events like this, the grill is still open for appetizers and drink sales.

Later in the month, Shuler is organizing Friendsgiving Nov. 17, a traditional turkey, mashed potato and cranberry dinner complete with pumpkin pie.

"We can do the kitchen prep and the clean up," she said. "Too often when you are preparing the food, you don't get a chance to sit down and chat."

There will also be a raffle and silent auction at the event to benefit the Friends in Need Food Shelf.

"We thought, we're feeding individuals and would like to feed more," Shuler said.

December has a Shop and Sip event that will feature a craft fair.

The annual Santa Brunch will be the second December event. This time around participants will need a reservation to dine with St. Nick. Sleigh rides will also be back for the Dec. 10 event.

'Going dark'

Since October, the bar and grill has been open only two days a week, from 3-9 p.m.

"We've decided to in essence kind of go dark in the fall and winter season except for those two nights (Friday and Saturday), unless there happens to be some other events going on down there," Cottage Grove City Council member Steve Dennis said.

River Oaks expense and revenue reports from past years show that the fourth and first quarters of the year — the fall and winter months — generally operate in the red, losing from $17,000 up to $84,000 since 2013. This year, quarter three this year made about a $22,000 profit, after losing about $100,000 during the first six months.

Places like Eagles Bar and Grill have a lot of overhead, so if they're going to open, they want it to be positive, Neitz said. They're hoping the two days a week run will help them ramp up to possibly move to seven days a week when golf season starts back up next spring.

"The goal when spring hits, we'll have a good following, and then be open seven days a week," Nietz said.

Along with the new schedule, there are also new specials for diners.

Each Friday, the spring-time favorite fish fry is back, and Saturday is keyed up for prime rib dinners. The full menu is also available both nights.

Their menu has changed slightly, adding steak and chicken dinners alongside Eagles' traditional burger, salad and sandwich fare.

On the golf side, though there were losses in the first half of the year, quarter three results 10 percent higher than 2016. Golf tournament numbers were even with 2016.

New cross-country skiing trails will be open sunset to sunrise once snow starts falling at the golf course. A trail groomer and snowmobile were donated last year, and staff have created a map for the coming season, Parks and Recreation Director Zac Dockter said.

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