The latest downtown Chattanooga waterfront restaurant navigated into the city Sunday.
Following a more than weeklong voyage across the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mobile River, and ultimately to the Tennessee River, the 167-foot ship is docked at the Chattanooga Pier at Ross’s Landing.
The excursion dinner boat, owned by Chattanooga businessmen Henry Luken and Harry Phillips and operated by Chattanooga Water Taxi, will serve as a restaurant and banquet facility.
Mr. Phillips’ wife, Maura, a spokeswoman for Chattanooga Water Taxi, said the operators are unsure when the restaurant will open.
“Our plan is to do it as quickly as possible,” she said.
The U.S. Coast Guard initially certified the vessel to carry 400 people, but Mr. Luken said he is unsure what the configuration will be once the inside has been reworked.
“There is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
Company officials said the boat was purchased from Leisure Lady Casino LLC in Fort Meyers, Fla., prior to traveling to Chattanooga. They declined to disclose the purchase price.
Mr. Luken, a real estate and telecommunications investor, said the boat occasionally will make river excursions. But it primarily will serve as a floating restaurant docked along the waterfront, he said.
It also will serve as a location for wedding receptions and other large parties, Mr. Luken said.
Mr. Luken said the ship, which consists of 5,500 square feet of space, has three levels including an upper-deck outside dining area.
Mrs. Phillips said the ship will be different from the other dining and river excursion vessels already in operation on the waterfront, such as the Southern Belle, which makes nightly trips up and down the river.
“It will be very different and hopefully complimentary to everything else on the waterfront,” she said.
Officials said the ship will make trips up and down the river, but they are unsure how often that will happen.
They also are in the process of renaming the vessel, currently is called the Leisure Lady.
Larry Zehnder, the city’s parks and recreation administrator, said the city is negotiating a lease for the docking of the vessel.
Mr. Luken knows yachts. About two years ago, as part owner of Christensen Shipyards in Washington state, he announced plans to build a plant in Loudon County near Knoxville to construct luxury yachts costing upward of $60 million each.
In addition, he docked the 157-foot yacht Liquidity on Chickamauga Lake a couple of years ago.
Mr. and Mrs. Phillips started Chattanooga Water Taxi in July 2006. Company officials said the new ship is the third in a fleet that includes the water taxi and the Fat Cat Ferry.
For more information about the latest waterfront floating restaurant, call 756-5060.