By Christine Graf
Matt and Rebecca O’Hara, owners of Freedom Boat Club in Lake George, are seeking final approval to construct a private hospitality room for their members at the Queen Boat Co. (formerly the Dunham’s Bay Boat Co.) their marina on Lake George.
The O’Haras opened their boat club franchise after relocating to the area in 2016. In October of last year, they purchased what was Dunham’s Bay Boat Co. Their proposed hospitality room will be located in an existing building within marina.
Matt O’Hara said the proposed hospitality room would provide members with a place to socialize when they aren’t out on the lake. He also envisions the space being used to conduct trainings and safe-boating classes. Food and alcohol will not be served in the hospitality room.
“It will give them an area—either before or after their boat trip—to have a lunch or a picnic right on the lake. A lot of our members like to go to the Dunham Bay Resort across the street, and we envision a lot of takeout orders from there,” he said. “We require our boats to be in at 7 p.m., so it will also give them an opportunity to still be on the lake and catch the sunset even though the boat is back. We also envision it as being a place they might be able to host a private event. It will be a members only area.”
Although the project has received approval from the town, O’Hara said they still need to get approval from the Lake George Parks Commission. They hope to have their project on the agenda for the commission’s January meeting.
“It’s a pretty big project,” said O’Hara. “We will have to do a lot of site work to become ADA compliant. We have to make the docks accessible and install a lift from first to second floor.”
There is also extensive work that will need to be done to both the interior and exterior of the building. O’Hara said it is too premature to estimate the total cost or completion date of the proposed project.
“It will be a matter of getting approval, the snow and ice melting, and getting construction equipment on site. If we get an early thaw, we could get it open by May. Mother Nature will dictate a lot of it, but we hope to have it done by spring of 2021,” he said.
Freedom Boat Club, a membership group, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The company has more than 200 locations and in excess of 20,000 members, with locations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
A one-time membership fee along with monthly dues gives members access to boats at any of the company’s locations. Each location offers a variety of vessels including speed, fishing, and pontoon boats. The Lake George location had 12 boats in its fleet during the 2019 season, and nine new boats have been purchased for 2020.
Matt O’Hara said membership boating is still a relatively new concept in the northeast. The idea is catching on, and membership at the Lake George location has grown from 14 in 2016 to 89 in 2019.
“People really love it,” he said. “It’s a great option for people who want to enjoy the lake but for time reasons or economic reasons boat ownership might not be the best option for them. Access to Lake George is getting harder and harder, dock space is harder to find and getting more expensive, and boats are getting more expensive.”
By Christine Graf