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Edmonton Queen owner says only permits are keeping boat off river

Edmonton Queen riverboat ready to open
WATCH ABOVE: The Edmonton Queen riverboat has had some major updates done and is ready for the river again but the new owner is waiting on permits. Fletcher Kent reports.

The iconic Edmonton Queen riverboat has a new look and the owner can’t wait to show it off to guests.

“I’m proud of what has happened here,” Jay Esterer said. “It’s been a process. The vision has been solidifying over the last year.”

In April 2016, Esterer purchased the Queen in an online auction for $553,000.

READ MORE: Edmonton Queen Riverboat sold in auction for more than $500K

At the time, he felt he “truly didn’t know what to expect.

“I didn’t know what condition the boat was in and I was pleasantly surprised that everything on the boat worked.”

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At least everything major like the engines and navigation controls worked.

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Bow thrusters were broken. The plumbing was a mess and the Edmonton Queen needed a lot of cosmetic work.

That’s all complete now and Esterer took Global News on a tour of his boat and showed off the work he has done.

“The old laminate floor was removed and the carpeting was removed and this oak hardwood was put down,” said Esterer, pointing to a gleaming floor that stretches from the riverboat’s bow to its stern.

The Edmonton Queen Riverboat has been given some upgrades but can't be open to guests yet.
The Edmonton Queen Riverboat has been given some upgrades but can't be open to guests yet. Fletcher Kent, Global News
The Edmonton Queen Riverboat has been given some upgrades but can't be open to guests yet.
The Edmonton Queen Riverboat has been given some upgrades but can't be open to guests yet. Fletcher Kent, Global News
The Edmonton Queen Riverboat has been given some upgrades but can't be open to guests yet.
The Edmonton Queen Riverboat has been given some upgrades but can't be open to guests yet. Fletcher Kent, Global News

There’s a new bar, the kitchen and bathrooms have been renovated and on many of the walls are old photos and maps of Edmonton.

One is a map of Edmonton neighbourhoods. The old document was created when the now well-established neighbourhoods were still on the drawing board.  It shows the community of Mayfair where Hawrelak Park now is. There’s a recreated map made by explorer and fur-trader David Thompson and there are numerous photos of the city skyline throughout the years.

“It’s very important,” Esterer said. “I’m very interested in Edmonton’s history and I want to show respect for the river valley and Edmonton.”

READ MORE: In the market for a riverboat? Edmonton Queen up for auction 

The renovations were completed in June but there’s still one thing missing from the Edmonton Queen: people.

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Esterer cannot open for business yet.

“I got frustrated for a bit and then I thought: OK, I’ll just wait. I’ll be patient.”

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Permitting problems are delaying the opening. At the moment, Esterer won’t estimate when he’ll be able to cut through the red tape.

Because he owns a boat that will sail passengers up and down the river, Transport Canada must sign off on the boat’s safety.

The City of Edmonton issued a statement outlining the three outstanding issues with the Edmonton Queen.

It is working with the owner on a requirement to renew a development permit allowing him to continue to offer boat tours and special events. Esterer also needs to secure a lease with the city to use the municipally owned sales office, parking lot and boat dock. Edmonton also requires confirmation from the federal government stating the Queen is safe.

“They’ve unofficially said the boat is safe and ready to go but they haven’t given me the paperwork to suggest that,” Esterer said.

Meanwhile, hotels have phoned asking him to hold events on the Queen. Several people have asked to have weddings on the boat. Esterer thinks he could be booked solid if he was able to open.

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Until that happens, “I’m just patiently waiting.”