AUSTIN, Texas - Commercial, rental and hired watercrafts are currently banned at Travis County parks on Lake Austin and Lake Travis.
Boat rental companies said that is making it extremely difficult for them to operate.
“Pretty much, we've been shut down,” said Jesse Gomez, owner of Wake Riderz, a rental boat company that operates on Lake Austin.
In a typical year, rental boat companies make the majority of their money in the summer, but this year has been anything but typical, and companies that rely on visitors to area lakes are feeling the heat.
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“If the rules don't change, I don't think that I will make it through. I don't think any business can. I mean, how can you afford to stay open if you're not making money?” Gomez said.
Travis County Parks shut down public boat ramps for Fourth of July weekend. Rental boat captains were under the impression that would only last until July 7. However, July 6, the Parks Department published new orders online.
The orders ban rental watercrafts and watercrafts for hire from launching, retrieving or loading passengers at Travis County parks.
Rental companies said they feel targeted by those orders, even though they have been following safety guidelines.
“I'm in shock to be honest with you, especially when my business pays franchise taxes, local taxes, sales taxes. And, you know, to be honest, a public boat ramp is funded by us, taxpaying citizens,” said Gomez.
Wake Riderz captains have gotten creative to keep some money coming in. “We have two boats that have been on Lake Austin, on the water, for the past week and a half. And we're having to do extra things to kind of pick up customers,” Gomez said.
Blake Diekmann, boat captain for Wave in Water, said he had enough. He moved his operations to Canyon Lake.
In a statement Diekmann wrote, "Austin keeps making it harder for my company, and all companies, to operate... We have employees that need to feed families, we are 1099, most of us need to work and we are offering a safe way to do so."
“It's definitely making me think twice. It's definitely making a big impact on the business, financially and operational. I couldn't tell you if we're going to continue to do business. The way things are going, it's definitely hurting us,” said Gomez.
Wake Riderz usually books between 10-12 groups per week. Right now, Gomez said they are only able to book two or three.
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