Slow start to summer hurting lakeshore businesses

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by Lane Kimble

MILWAUKEE -- Lake Michigan can provide spectacular views this time of year, but Monday morning brought more thick, white fog that blocked those views and continues to send businesses along the lakefront into the red.

"This is not summer, this is spring," Sea Dog Sailing Captain Bob DeVorse said.  "This weekend was a sellout, but I only went out like three times."

DeVorse has run his charter sail boat business out of McKinley Marina for 13 years.  He says he's never had four straight days of fog like Milwaukee saw this weekend.

"The people I get locally, they're always very agreeable, 'OK, Captain Bob, we'll come another  time,'" DeVorse said.  "But the people that are visiting, I lose them.  I'm not going to get them back."

That means losing out on around $200 every cancellation.  So far this year, Captain Bob is still  operating at a loss.

About a half-mile up the beach, it's the same story for Jet Ski Zone owner Keith McElroy.

"We can't rent unless the weather cooperates and when we have fog, of course we can't send anyone out," McElroy said.

McElroy's jet skis sit covered up and in his shed during this weather.  He says a good day brings up to 20 riders.  This weekend he had to turn everyone away.

"When you work at the lakefront, you're just at the mercy of the lake," McElroy said.

Across Milwaukee County, Parks Director John Dargle says attendance at the pools is down and total golfers dropped about 25 percent last week.  But he says all summer jobs are safe.

"We transition them," Dargle said.  "They move around about the system based on demand and supply."

Dargle says other parks activities, like the traveling beer garden, have helped balance out losses -- but people like Captain Bob don't have the luxury of other revenue sources.

"A lot of times they see this and they go, 'No thanks.  We'll call back.  We'll come another time,'" DeVorse said.

More info on Lake Michigan sailing click here

More info on Jet Ski rentals click here

Milwaukee County Parks click here

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