CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s closing time for Chicago’s Navy Pier.

This Labor Day Monday marked the last day for visitors until 2021, because of a multimillion-dollar dip in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBS 2’s Tara Molina on Monday night examined what the closure will mean going forward, and what it will mean for the rest of the city.

Navy Pier has been considered the number one tourism destination in the Midwest. But even number one couldn’t handle the hits associated with the pandemic.

Still on Labor Day, it was far from self-evident that Navy Pier was struggling, as visitors flocked in.

“We’re just out here enjoying summer time Chi,” said Samara Jackson.

Jackson traveled from the south suburbs to spend the last day of the season at Navy Pier.

“I just love Navy Pier,” she said. “Being here is home.”

Jackson said it was hard to hear Navy Pier was forced to close to limit their losses.

“It’s very sad,” she said.

The Labor Day crowds were a far cry from what the pier looked like this summer. Visitors dipped 85 percent this year, compared to last.

It was a loss Navy Pier just couldn’t sustain. That is what a representative said Monday:

 

“We do not have any revenue estimates at the moment. However, we are seeing only about 15% of the attendance that we saw during this timeframe last year, so that should likely give you an idea of how drastically Navy Pier and its businesses have been impacted by the pandemic.”

That same spokesperson confirmed with CBS 2 Investigators that while they Navy Pier was able to secure a $2.5 million dollar Paycheck Protection Program loan, it only lasted eight weeks – still leaving Navy Pier with a $20 million deficit in their $60 million operating budget.

The closure is affecting more than 70 businesses, including Seadog cruises.

Administrator Brandon Buckley said the cruise line is still at a very limited capacity, but has sold out tours all day.

“This is almost comparable to the Fourth of July, which is our busiest day of the season,” Buckley said.

Navy Pier isn’t expected to open again until spring of 2021, but nothing has been set or announced yet.

So while the closure is cutting into an already short season for seasonal business like Seadog, Buckley said he is optimistic looking forward.

“It’s all hearsay. We’re thinking April or May,” he said. “The sooner the better.”

Offshore, the rooftop restaurant and bar on the pier, will stay open for now despite the closure.

It will be open from noon until 9 p.m. every week day, 11 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Sunday.

CBS 2 reached out to Choose Chicago for more information on the implications of the closure when it comes to tourism numbers in the pandemic. As of late Monday night, we had not heard back.

 

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Tara Molina