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Maxson’s business down ‘80 percent’ due to COVID-19 pandemic

Riverboat still running for dinner, rides

The Rock River in Oregon is busier than it has ever been this summer, but one of its businesses is still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maxson Restaurant and Riverboat on North Illinois 2 has had to scale back hours and cancel parties due to state guidelines and changes in preferences by customers.

“I bet we’re down 80 percent,” Manager Rich Weisner said. ““We just have no customers or business. It’s just sad. There’s no parties. Usually it’s rehearsal dinners on weekends. We don’t see the people that we’ve seen for years. We’re not doing buffets. The tourism situation is sad.”

In past years, Maxson’s has been open Tuesday through Sunday. This year, the restaurant is only open on weekends. Staff has been scaled back.

The riverboat is still operating for lunch and dinner rides. The state only allows 50 people on the boat and 50 people in the restaurant. All bus trips from Chicago and wedding reservations have been canceled. Normally there are 25 tables, this year it’s nine.

“The first day was June 27,” Weisner said. “We were closed for three months. Nobody inside or outside. Probably 85 percent are using the deck. People are shy about coming inside.”

Weisner is a jack of all trades at the business. He captains the boat, power washes the deck and bartends. Anything that is needed.

Nice weather and people being indoors for the beginning of the summer has caused high recreation traffic on the river. Those that have taken boat rides at Maxson’s this summer have enjoyed themselves, Weisner said.

“Who wouldn’t enjoy going out for a two hour boat ride? I’ve probably had 250,000 people on the boat and I can count on one hand how many haven’t had a good time.”

Tough times won’t last for the business, Weisner said. Maxson’s received some assistance through grants and loans put into place by the pandemic.

Owners Frank and Nancy Semmerling, of Riverwoods, purchased the business in 2014. Weisner says they’re in a good spot for the future despite the pandemic.

“The owners here, they have resources,” Weisner said. “We’ll be around. This won’t close us down. We’ll be here for the future. I’ve been booking weddings for next year.”

Maxson’s Restaurant is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The riverboat runs from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. for lunch and 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. for dinner.

Customers can also just go for rides without eating.

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