TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — After 20 years, a popular, well-known Tuscaloosa riverboat is calling it quits for the rest of the year, possibly for good.
The Bama Belle is no longer in business for the rest of 2020, according to its Facebook page. Owner Craig Dodson said the damage was done as a result of the economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making it impossible to stay in business.
“It’s been too long of a run without being able to work,” Dodson said. “The beginning of the year, the river was flooded and now COVID, so we are just tired of waiting it out.”
The Bama Belle has been a fixture in Tuscaloosa since 2001. Dodson purchased the paddle wheel boat in 2015 and used it to take customers on river cruise tours. Allison Ingram is disappointed to see the boat no longer in operation.
“It’s very sad because it’s an historical part of Tuscaloosa and when you think about Tuscaloosa, it’s one of the things you think about because its been around so long.”
Dodson said the 90-foot boat can carry up to 149 passengers. Dinner was also served onboard and customers got to enjoy listening to local bands as they traveled down the Black Warrior River.
“The bands that played here onboard, there’s lots of talent here in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham,” he said. “I think I will miss that the most: sitting in wheel house listening to the good music”.
Pam Kelley and her husband are sad to see the paddle wheel boat go out of business. On Tuesday, they drove from their home in Mississippi hoping to go aboard for a boat ride.
“It’s really sad because we came from Mississippi to see what we could do to here and it’s sad we can’t even get on the boat to do history,” Kelley said. “This is something special to ya’ll so its something that would be special to us.”
Dodson is now looking for a buyer to take the Belle.