“You splash down. You do your tour. This area is specific for this type of operation. Amphibians are like Labs (Labrador Retrievers) and that’s the whole idea of this tour.”
John Murphy is the owner of Duck Sea Tours Seafari, Inc. He’s been battling the city commission for years to begin operating in Key West. Previously, the city granted Ed Swift, CEO of Historic Tours of American a monopoly and the city was sued for millions.
At this Tuesday’s city commission meeting the dais voted unanimously to grant a franchise and non-exclusive rights for the Duck Tours to operate. The task of laying out the route, determining the locations, stops, and making necessary adjustments has been given to city manager Jim Scholl.
Major concerns at this point involve but are not limited to: added traffic congestion on Southard Street, added traffic congestion on Greene and Elizabeth Streets, diver (SCUBA) safety, port security, dividing up waterfront property, and possession of the Trumbo Boat Ramp.
Executive Director for NASKW Ron Demes says the Truman Boat Ramp and the one at the end of Simonton Street next to The Pier House are already owned by the city and this franchise gives Duck Tours Seafari Inc. the right to access them. The concern is who is going to build the ramp at Trumbo Road.
“When someone wants to build something they are going to have a private interest. The other facilities are city owned, and the city will have liabilities they’re going to have to honor. They don’t want to give someone exclusive access and run the risk of being sued, ” remarked Demes.
“Whether you’re talking Trumbo or the waterfront, there’s only so much property. I don’t want to start cutting it up. Maybe the city will build the ramp and invite the two operators because it’s obvious they’re not going to work together. Maybe they will work with us,” weighed in Commissioner Lopez, referring to the two operators as Duck Tours Seafari and Historic Tours of America.
“We need to commit to giving them access,” warned assistant city manager Dave Fernandez, “otherwise you will create a monopoly in reverse which will incite a lawsuit.”
The commissioners did vote to do just that. Commissioner Teri Johnston made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Weekley, to postpone a decision on the repercussions to the construction of a Trumbo boat ramp until the first meeting in February.
USCG Regulations allow the Duck Tours to only be in the water for 30 minutes maximum per tour because they don’t luxuriate patrons with restrooms onboard.