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Hidden Harbor soft opening set mid-April

Refurbishment of the former Willie's Hidden Harbor in St. Paul Park began in early March with a soft opening tentatively set for mid-April, according to new owners Tim Kennedy and Paul Narpaul.

They received approval for three different liquor licenses from the St. Paul Park City Council on March 15. Licenses for on-sale and Sunday sales, 2 a.m. closing and off-sale liquor sales were passed 5-0.

The marina has been renamed Hidden Harbor and the restaurant will be known as Vinny's on the River. The complex, which covers 53 acres and includes the harbor, boat slips, maintenance buildings restaurant and five houses, is located at the west end of Ninth Avenue.

Kennedy said newly hired cooks have begun planning menus, which will include popular American foods and eventually Caribbean-style dishes.

The marina is expected to be ready for boats in mid-April as well, said marina manager Bob Boekhoff.

"We're beginning to refloat the docks today," Boekhoff said. "This season we will have space for 40 boats and will eventually expand back to the original 142 spaces.

Boekhoff, who has worked in the industry most of his life, said he's looking forward to opening the marina. "Boaters will come first," he said. The marina also will offer repairs and parts sales.

Twenty-two boats are still stored on the property, Boekhoff said. "We only know the owners of about half."