Don “Bogie” Boquist, owner of the Badger Hotel on East Main Street in Merrill, has made some big changes to his business that he hopes the community will embrace. He recently added a kitchen to the Bluejays Nest bar and lounge, and converted his swimming pool room into a ballroom.
“This is not just for hotel guests,” he said, “We’re open to the public.”
His plan with the Bluejays Nest is to re-establish it as a public bar. The Bluejays Nest features a full beer and liquor bar. A new kitchen, the “lunch wagon,” features hamburgers, wings, pizza, cheese curds, barbecued ribs, pulled pork and authentic Chicago-style hot dogs with all the fixings. Bogie strived to source his menu items locally, including the pork from Geiss Meat Service and the cheese curds from Ed & Sharon’s. The bar also features Sawmill Brewery beer on tap.
The Bluejays Nest is open daily at 4 p.m. and will stay open until 10 p.m., or later based on customer demand.
If there is customer interest, Don may add lunch hours in the future.
The Bluejays Nest has a dedicated entrance, separate from the hotel entrance.
In June, the project began to convert the hotel’s swimming pool room into a ballroom. A new subfloor and flooring from Central Carpet now cover the pool area. A new bar area was also built to serve guests in the ballroom.
The Badger Ballroom will seat about 100 guests for gatherings such as weddings, anniversaries, reunions, parties and funerals.
Don saw a need for a venue in Merrill that could accommodate gatherings of about 100 people.
“Merrill was losing rooms to Wausau because we didn’t have a facility that could handle larger groups,” he said.
Don is hoping to add an outdoor patio to the west of the ballroom next summer.
The Badger Ballroom is already taking bookings and can be reached at 715-536-6880.
Don has a long history in the hospitality business. His first job at 14 was at the Merrill Hotel (located in the former Lincoln House building). When he was 26, he bought his first bar in Merrill, one of several businesses he’s owned over the past three decades.
Bogie bought the hotel 10 years ago. After a few years as a franchise, he went independent and renamed his business the Badger Hotel. Born and raised in Merrill, Don has an appreciation for local history. The name of his hotel is a nod to the original Badger Hotel, an iconic Merrill landmark of the past that stood where Park Place is now. In fact, Don has a copy of the original Badger Hotel’s liquor license from 1906.
The Badger Hotel is a family business as Don’s wife, Jenalyn, works the desk and helps out with everything. Their son, Jerry, also pitches in with various tasks.