NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 20, 2020) – Rent abatement at all leased recreation facilities in the Cumberland River Basin will potentially allow marinas to retain an estimated $750,000 to help stay afloat as revenues decline during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the president’s declared national emergency in March and input received from concessionaires, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James made the decision to adjust rental payments for commercial recreational facilities under lease, directing the Corps to provide full rent abatement for 90 days.
“Providing rent abatement during these times of uncertainty allows the marinas to utilize their on-hand cash to keep their businesses operational while sustaining impacts caused by COVID19,” said Mike Abernathy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Real Estate Division chief. “The marinas provide family friendly recreation to their local communities, and the Corps is doing our part to ensure the marinas continue to provide the premier recreational opportunities on Corps Lakes.”
The rent abatement period currently runs April 15 through July 14, 2020, which directly benefits 63 Lessees operating at the Nashville District’s lake projects in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Ryan Williams, owner of Cherokee Steakhouse, Marina and Campground on Old Hickory Lake in Lebanon, Tennessee, said his team has been working very hard this spring to replace the fuel dock. In addition, they are replacing old wooden slips and constructing 30 brand new slips, and a new ship’s store will soon be added with patio on the water for patrons to enjoy while social distancing. He said he committed a lot of investment into these improvements prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which initially closed down his restaurant for seven weeks and impacted some rental slip tenants that found themselves unemployed.
Williams explained that he is currently having to reinvest profits into sustaining his marina, restaurant and campground due to the downturn in business. Several weeks ago he reopened the steakhouse with a limited menu, but now faces beef shortages. He counted on a huge recreation season this year, but with uncertainty looming with business this summer due to the pandemic, he said he is grateful for the rent abatement from the Corps of Engineers.
“I thought it was a blessing,” Williams said. “We were all in panic mode at first. I was on the phone with the Corps talking about options. When this (rent abatement) came out I thought it was an amazing step for them to take.”
Williams stressed that rent abatement is a huge help for the marina to be able to continue to operate. “Cash is king right now and you have to have cash to operate. If you spend all your money on rents and things like that then you are left trying to figure out how you are going to pay for the capital improvements and projects that we had already committed to,” he said.
Dennis Wilbert, owner of Dale Hollow Marina and Dale Hollow Marina at Cedar Hill in Celina, Tennessee, said prior to last weekend, business at the marinas he operates was basically nonexistent while most people were in quarantine due to COVID-19.
With the exception of an occasional fishing boat going by, “It looked like a ghost town,” he said.
Wilbert stressed that his resorts took a hard hit, losing about $150,000 from spring reservations. To complicate things, Cedar Hill Marina was right in the middle of a $1.5 million renovation project when business declined. He said with the downturn from the pandemic he is very appreciative of the Corps of Engineers’ rent abatement.
“I’ve talked to other marina operators about it and there is a collective sigh of relief that this will take some of the pressure off of us trying to make up for all these losses,” Wilbert said. “I was ecstatic when I saw that come through.”
Nashville District Realty Specialist Marcus Hooper is working with concessionaires on the rent abatement and noted that the Corps of Engineers has requested monthly reports of gross receipts during the abatement period, and for the same period over the past three years, to determine the actual impacts of COVID-19 on marinas.
“The data from across the country is being collected by our headquarters to determine these impacts and to consider if another abatement period is necessary,” Hooper said.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)