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Bug-A-Boo is back: Restaurant is sold

Echo Press photo by Al Edenloff

Bug-A-Boo Bay, one of Alexandria's hot spots for dining and fun, will re-open on May 1.

The restaurant, which has been closed since January 1, was sold to Randy Stodola; the closing was official on Wednesday.

Stodola and a managing partner, Jason Hartmann, live near the Twin Cities but have connections to the lakes area.

Hartmann has a lake cabin near Villard and Stodola has a summer place on Big Sauk Lake near Sauk Centre.

"So we're not big city people," said Hartmann in an interview with the newspaper Wednesday. "We love the lakes area. The chain is something that this state doesn't have a lot of. And Alexandria is in driving distance for everyone to enjoy."

They both have restaurant/bar experience. Stodola owned two bars in the west metro area. The last one, Down South, which he sold last year, was a Caribbean style bar/restaurant similar to Bug-A-Boo.

Hartmann, a graduate of Brown Institute with a degree in culinary arts and restaurant management, also owned a bar in Brained, the Half Moon Saloon, and another in Waconia, Hoppers Bar and Grill.

The new owners took over the restaurant from Dave and Debbie Bistodeau for an undisclosed amount. The property was listed by realtor Randy Fischer at just under $2 million.

They don't plan to make any big changes, at least to start.

The Bug-A-Boo name will remain and they'll run it year-round. The sand volleyball courts will also open soon.

"Most of the tropical atmosphere will remain the same," Hartmann said. "We may juggle the menu a little but we don't have any specific changes planned yet."

Hartmann said the goal will be to balance the fine line between casual dining and a little more upscale experience. "But we're not going to have you pick your own lobster out of a tank or anything," he added.

The restaurant has already started the hiring process; an advertisement calling for job applications is running in today's newspaper.

There will be a lot of positions to fill - cooks, waiters, bussers, bartenders, hosts, the whole gamut, Hartmann said. During its peak times in the past, the restaurant provided more than 130 jobs.

The sale did not include the property next door, The Wharf, another once popular bar/restaurant that closed years ago.

"We're hoping somebody does become interested in The Wharf," Hartmann said. "We'd love to see someone over there."

It took about five weeks to negotiate the Bug-A-Boo Bay sale. The new owners are excited about the opportunities ahead.

"We are absolutely thrilled to have this," Hartmann said. "We would like to thank all the people that have supported us throughout this process. All the positive feedback we've received so far has been wonderful. We hope that the local Alexandria people come back and support Bug-A-Boo Bay like they have in the past."

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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