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Smoking mad

Blue Smoke BBQ, located at 403 3rd Avenue East in Alexandria, has been vacant since a fire gutted the building last August. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)

The owners of Blue Smoke BBQ, their restaurant gutted by a fire last summer, plan to demolish the building soon.

They also plan to open another barbecue place “as soon as it’s financially possible,” they said.

But it likely won’t be in Alexandria.

When contacted by the Echo Press, the owners, David and Steve Galbraith, said they felt harassed by the city, which called for the building to be demolished after it said it was unable to contact the Galbraiths to get the job done.

Three weeks ago, the city began publishing public notices in the newspaper, deeming the structure a public health hazard and set a timeline for its demolition.

“The harassive, degrading and insulting nature of comments and publications made, and the ridiculous headache that it is to work with officials and members – it surprises me that any businesses are here,” David Galbraith said.

Steve Galbraith, David’s father, said he preferred not to comment on the matter, except for making this statement: “We are working to address the building situation now that the weather is allowing us to do so. I am sick of being the subject of other people’s conversations and I feel the less said the better. There is no need for me to feed the Alexandria rumor pool; it feeds itself.”

David Galbraith expressed frustration that the city was unable to contact him. He said the business phone was destroyed in the fire, but the city had his cell phone number before the restaurant opened.

“Why didn’t my cell phone ring? What were their efforts to contact me?” he asked.

Galbraith said his first clue about the city’s plans to demolish the building came when he found paperwork posted on the building a few weeks ago.

Galbraith also disagrees with the city’s contention that the building is a hazard or that people could enter it. He said he noticed only one set of tracks in the snow leading up to the door this winter, which he said were made by the city worker who posted the paperwork.

“Before the snow fell, I made certain that there were no dangerous items or debris left around the property,” he said. “The building is secure. The only way in is to unlock the front door and go in that way. Even the doorway that was burned through had a board over it, and entry was blocked inside by a barricade of equipment that I placed in front of the doorway.”

The Galbraiths were making plans to demolish the building before the city took action against them, according to David Galbraith, although an actual demolition date has not been set.

“We have, weather permitting, been in removing salvageable and scrap-able materials,” he said. “The building will be taken down and removed from the property in due time, as the frost starts to leave and the contractors will be able to remove the footings without added stress on personnel and equipment from the cold and frost.”

Business at Blue Smoke BBQ was beyond the owners’ projections until the fire, which was determined to be accidental.

“It was stunning to me that we were able to get such a loyal and large following in such a short period of time,” Galbraith said. “And the amount of product we were able to produce and deliver to customers was incredible. I honestly have to offer my praise to all of the employees...”

Before opening the restaurant, the Galbraiths developed a business plan that showed there was a strong demand for a barbecue place in the Alexandria area. David Galbraith still believes that.

“With so much demand and no supply in the specific industry, I feel obligated to reopen for the good of our community and surrounding area,” he said.

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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