SunCruz confirms its Hollywood shutdown - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

SunCruz Casinos confirmed on Friday that it will halt operations at Martha's restaurant in Hollywood, at least for the time being.

The day cruise company cited municipal size restrictions that forced it to replace its 600-passenger SunCruz VI vessel with the 300-passenger SunCruz V.

The company said it tried to maintain the guest experience customers expected "but the size of the existing vessel simply could not fill this need." In a statement, SunCruz said its sailings are temporarily suspended.

About 90 employees are out of work, but SunCruz said it would try to place them elsewhere within the company.

It said it is pursuing several "extremely appealing opportunities" to reposition itself in the South Florida market. The Dania Beach-based company operates ships in six other markets, including Key Largo, Port Canaveral and Jacksonville.

Many residents of Hollywood's North Beach are glad to see SunCruz shutting down.

Laurie Schecter, who owns two small businesses near where the boat docked, agreed.

"A business that size belongs in a port or a place with the facilities to accommodate it," Schecter said. "That means the bathroom facilities, places to put the cars."

Residents in the neighborhood said when the cruise ship returned to shore at night around 1 a.m., the area felt like Fort Lauderdale beach during Spring Break, with people urinating in yards, yelling and beeping car horns as they drove away.

"To say I'm thrilled they are moving on is an understatement," said Brenda Chalifour, a beach activist. "There were many reasons that boat shouldn't have been there."

When the city fought SunCruz in court to limit the size of the boat, the situation improved, but only incrementally, Schecter said. Many residents had been watching and hoping the casino ship would fold its tent.

"Everyone was always talking about whether it would stay or go,"

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