Covid-19 reopening blues

A month ago, I thought that this column would be all about the resumption of passenger vessel operations on our beautiful Western Rivers. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

We are still for the most part shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. While my company, BB Riverboats, is operating some limited cruises, I don’t know when we will successfully emerge from this ordeal.

Of all the challenges we have faced over the years — recessions, storms, and high water — the coronavirus pandemic has been the most daunting. The hardest part is all the waiting. We are waiting on the federal government to figure out the next steps in emergency or other types of assistance for small business. We are waiting for Congress to decide if or how it can assist businesses by limiting our liability from litigation related to the coronavirus. We applied to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) in March. We are waiting to hear from the SBA. I am told that the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program is opening, and when it does, we will apply. But in the meantime, we continue to wait.

We are waiting for the state of Kentucky to allow us to reopen at 75% capacity or, hopefully, at full passenger capacity. But we have no assurances of when this may or may not happen. In the meantime, we are burning through resources while operating at a big reduction in passenger levels in the hope that our state government will soon make critical and necessary decisions about reopening.

We have implemented responsible Covid-19 safety measures for our customers and employees. We have implemented reopening guidelines developed by the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA) and are ready to safely operate at increased numbers. Still, we continue to wait.

BB Riverboats and other small businesses are at a huge disadvantage because time is not on our side. We do not have huge cash reserves or endless lines of credit. We are a small, family-run business that must operate to survive.

A month or so ago, I called my entire staff together for a meeting. I told them that we face difficult times unless we are able to operate, and “let’s fight today for tomorrow and then fight tomorrow for the next day.”

I believe that if we do this we will survive.

About the author

Capt. Alan Bernstein

Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats in Cincinnati, is a licensed master and a former president of the Passenger Vessel Association. He can be reached at 859-292-2449 or abernstein@bbriverboats.com.

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