Historic riverboat, the Grand Romance, may be kicked out of Long Beach harbor

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A three-story authentic Mississippi paddleboat docked at Rainbow Harbor has longtime been part of the scenery in Long Beach. But now the Grand Romance dinner cruise and showboat may be kicked out. (KABC)

A three-story authentic Mississippi paddleboat docked at Rainbow Harbor has longtime been part of the scenery in Long Beach. But now the Grand Romance dinner cruise and showboat may be kicked out.

Bill Barker, captain and owner of the Grand Romance Riverboat, said the city is terminating his permit to operate in the harbor. He has 60 days to vacate and remove the 19th century vessel.

Barker said he received a list of compliance issues back in August and fulfilled those requirements. He said he and other business owners along the harbor have recently felt they are being pushed out by the city in its plan to gentrify the area.

"There have been a lot of pressure put on myself and the other businesses here to change the atmosphere," Barker said.

City officials, however, deny the claims.

"(The city) has made repeated attempts to gain compliance from Bill Barker...Unfortunately, the Grand Romance Riverboat has continued to act contrary to city directives and conditions and showed little regard for city assets, rules and regulations," a statement said.

Barker insists the compliance issues are a misunderstanding and that the eviction comes as a complete surprise. The Grand Romance has dozens of clients who have booked months in advance. If evicted, Barker would have to cancel all those reservations and refund their money.

Many in the area are also saddened by the possible eviction.

"I actually can't even imagine looking at this waterfront right here without seeing the Grand Romance," Garret Henderson said.

Barker wants to speak to the city and work something out in hopes of preserving a bit of history amidst so much change.
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