CHICAGO (CBS) — After waiting more than 50 days Chicago boat owners can soon set sail again. Next week harbors will be bustling, but COVID-19 brings a lot of changes and sinking revenue not only for boaters who make a living on the water but also for the city facing millions in losses.
Chris Connor’s charter company, Knock Out Charters, has not operated since April and recently canceled seven trips.
“An average trip on my boat is somewhere from $500 to $1200,” he said.
That’s money gone, which he and others hope to recoup.
All 10 of Chicago’s harbors will reopen Monday with restrictions.
For Connor extensive sanitizing will cut down on boat rides.
“Instead of a half hour between trips, now I need at least an hour,” he said.
And social distancing means fewer people on board because the city only allows a maximum of 10 people on a boat. That could mean even less revenue depending on its size.
And tying up multiple boats is not allowed.
All of these changes fall under state guidelines Chicago was slow to enact, forcing many in the city to jump ship for other harbors.
“And many of those aren’t coming back for the summer,” said Scott Stevenson, general manager of Chicago Harbors.
The city is giving a full refund on slips, which can cost thousands of dollars, or a credit for next year on the days missed so far in the season that started May 1.
“It works out to 53 days,” Stevenson said. “So they will get about a 22, 23% refund.”
That is welcome news for boaters but a financial hit to the park district.
“It’s several million dollars,” said Stevenson.
The district’s budget has harbor fees at $27 million in revenue. It is one of the highest money makers after Soldier Field.
“We are cutting costs and trying to save money wherever we can so that we can lessen the budget impact,” Stevenson said. “But I would say we are not cutting the services to our customers.”
Boaters will even see some improvements at harbors, including better bathrooms and parking.
And now that sails can go up, those boaters are hoping to see the improvement in their livelihoods as well.
A lot of questions can be raised about enforcement, but harbor management says they are not too worried about it, mainly because of an online petition 4,600 people have signed pledging to play by the rules.