Had things gone as planned for Discovery Charters Inc., the whale watching season of 2019 would have been huge. By the company’s estimation, thousands of people would have embarked on the company’s newly acquired Island Explorer 3 to watch whales breach, cavort and feed in the Monterey Bay. And those thousands of people would account for an estimated $480,000 in gross ticket sales, or nearly $250,000 net.
Discovery had bought the Island Explorer 3 in 2018 for $1.2 million, with plans to operate it from its leased, 100-foot docking and concession space on Monterey’s Municipal Wharf 1. But even before the purchase was struck and the boat moved from Seattle to Monterey, the city warned Discovery: Don’t do it. The reason? The city maintains Discovery only has a lease for 70 feet of dock space, not 100. Unable to operate the Island Explorer 3 because there was no place to dock it, or onload and offload passengers – and because Discovery was counting on those ticket sales to pay the loan on the Island Explorer 3, the boat went back to its original owners, who then sold it to another buyer.
The conflict between city and business had been well documented since the city told Discovery it couldn’t park the boat in its leased space, and refused to provide another location, and now that conflict has reached the courts.
Discovery has sued the city, alleging breach of contract and interference with economic relations and is asking a Monterey County Superior Court judge to order the city to provide its 100-foot space and pay damages they say resulted from the inability to operate the whale watching charter.
Christine Kemp, an attorney representing Discovery, did not return a call requesting comment in time for the paper’s deadline. Monterey City Manager Hans Uslar says the city “tried to find a creative solution to the problem, but were unsuccessful in doing so.”
In April, after Discovery filed its claim against the city, City Attorney Christine Davi told theWeekly the city’s position “has been communicated to (Discovery) many times, even before they did a lease to purchase the new boat” that their leased space was insufficient for the Island Explorer’s size.
According to the lawsuit, filed Dec. 6, Discovery’s lease on the wharf runs through 2041; had the company been able to operate the boat for the duration of the lease, it would have resulted in an estimated $28.7 million in net ticket sales, and $2.4 million in net merchandise sales.
The first court hearing is scheduled for April 7, 2020.