How does this sound to you? A charter boat captain says he has to pay to pick up passengers at a city-owned marina. Then, when he stops to pick up the passengers, he gets fined by the city. It sounded crazy to him, and that’s why he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Don’t doubt Sergio when he says he has saltwater in his veins.
Sergio Bezsonoff: “Oh, yes, I’ve been at sea for more than 50 years. I was in the Navy. I had my own fishing boat. We established a company, and we do charters.”
Sergio’s charter, Aelous, is a beautiful 47-foot catamaran that takes people all over South Florida waters.
Sergio Bezsonoff: “We take people out to the bay, to the sandbars, to the Keys.”
But, of course, to do that leaves Sergio up to his gills in fees, aka taxes.
Sergio Bezsonoff: “My boat is registered by the U.S. My boat is registered in the State of Florida. My business is registered in the City of Miami.”
And there’s more. Recently, he stopped in at the city-owned Miami Beach Marina, where he pays $170 each time he docks and picks up a couple of passengers.
But a Code Enforcement officer said, “Wait, what about paying Miami Beach?”
Sergio Beszonoff: “I don’t have a business permit in the city of Miami Beach, because my business is not in Miami Beach.”
Sergio didn’t know he needed another business license to pick up passengers plus pay the city marina, but he thanked the Code Enforcement officer for the warning and pulled out.
A few days later, he discovered the officer wasn’t so friendly, and had hit him hard.
Sergio Beszonoff: “One, for operating a business in Miami Beach without a proper license, which is $1,000, and the other for picking up people at a public facility, and that was for $250.”
Needless to say, Sergio was surprised that he needed a business license to pull into the marina.
Sergio Beszonoff: “If I pick up people in Miami Beach, do I have to have a permit in Miami Beach? A permit in Miami? A permit in Key Biscayne?”
Sergio wonders why the city is coming after boats when the streets are filled with Uber and Lyft drivers.
Sergio Beszonoff: “So, does he have to have a license from Hialeah? From North Miami? From Miami? The same thing with me. I operate in all Biscayne Bay.”
Miami Beach did say Sergio could appeal. And then they put their hand out again.
Sergio Beszonoff: “I have to include a check for $106 for each one of the citations.”
Needless to say, all the registration fees and taxes have Sergio feeling sunk.
Sergio Beszonoff: “I want to have those citations revoked.”
Well, Howard, delivery drivers don’t have to have a license for every city they stop in. Do boat owners have to have one?
Howard Finkelstein: “This is actually a complicated legal issue, and it begins with interstate commerce. Yes, a government agency can force a charter boat to pay to dock at a public marina, and the difference between a boat and a delivery operator like Uber, they are not being taxed right now, but cities could try to tax delivery operators in the future and legally may be able to get away with it.”
We contacted Miami Beach. A spokesperson wrote, “Those commercial operations transpiring at the marina would be deemed a charter operation that requires the issuance of a City of Miami Beach business tax.”
Regarding Uber, Lyft or any other delivery companies, they said it’s “inapplicable to this analysis.”
Sergio Beszonoff: “I still think this is ridiculous.”
Sergio is going to appeal because he feels it’s like he was set up. He paid to dock at the city-owned marina, and then got fined for docking at the city-owned marina.
Sergio Beszonoff: “I don’t understand. There is something dishonest or at least unethical on that.”
Sergio will argue at his appeal he had no idea he needed a license to pick up passengers, and the marina that took his docking fee or the Code Enforcement officer should have warned him before slamming him with $1,250 in fines. We will be at the hearing to see what the magistrate decides.
A salty problem left you drifting? Ready to dock it with someone? Lift anchor and charter it with us.
We don’t need a license to help, but hopefully we can leave you sailing away.
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