Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/7/2010 (2590 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Local businessman Kyriakos Vogiatzakis says he thought he had a gold mine when he bought the M.S. River Rouge cruise operation but after three years of fighting Mother Nature and government bureaucracy, Vogiatzakis said he's ready to weigh anchor and find another port.
Vogiatzakis has put the river boat cruise operation up for sale and he's thinking of leaving Winnipeg for good.
"I'm just frustrated," Vogiatzakis said. "I don't want to sound like a complainer but I put my heart into this project and I just didn't get the support."
The business has been listed for sale in the Winnipeg Real Estate News for the past month. The asking price is $1.6 million.
The M.S. River Rouge was built in Selkirk in 1965 and began operation in 1967. The cruise ship was initially popular, prompting the original owner to expand its size twice. It can now accommodate up to 400 passengers.
Agent Garry Hirsch said he's had several inquiries about the business, adding about half of them have been from immigration lawyers on behalf of overseas clients looking for business ventures.
Vogiatzakis said he's been approached by a First Nation to convert the ship into a floating casino and he's also had several offers to relocate his operation to cities in the United States.
"I grew up here and I know that the River Rouge is part of the city's history and I couldn't take it somewhere else," Vogiatzakis said. "If I can sell it, I will and then I'll move -- probably to New York City."
Vogiatzakis bought the River Rouge in 2007 with the aim of promoting it as a floating nightclub aimed at those 21 years of age and older. The renovations to the ship and its engines were more extensive than he anticipated, he said, adding operating without a liquor licence in 2008 hurt his bottom line.
Before buying the riverboat, Vogiatzakis was the owner of Roadshow Sound & Lite and Midnight Sound musical services. An explosion destroyed the business in 2001. He was charged with arson in 2002 but acquitted in 2005. However, he lost a lawsuit against the insurance company, which refused to pay out his claim because it suspected he was involved in the explosion.
"It was a bad time in my life," Vogiatzakis said. "I feel like I was taken advantage of. I just don't want to talk about it."
Vogiatzakis has also had run-ins with the provincial department of labour while owning the River Rouge, for failing to pay his staff. There have been more than a dozen claims made against him in 2008 and 2009 on behalf of River Rouge staff who didn't receive their paycheques. Vogiatzakis said he's had problems like every other businessman, adding there are two sides to every story.
Vogiatzakis said he's still upset with the City of Winnipeg for refusing to allow him to establish a dock for the M.S. River Rouge on the Assiniboine River at Donald Street. He said he received only grief from the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, which required him to apply for a new licence in 2008 when he relocated his dock -- resulting in him not having a liquor licence for that season -- and then, after he temporarily moved his operation to Selkirk, refused to let him sell liquor this year until he got support from the City of Selkirk.
"The River Rouge used to get 100,000 passengers a season but I've been lucky to get 15,000," Vogiatzakis said.
The River Rouge will be moving back to its traditional Redwood Bridge docking site July 20.