Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why Valet Parking?

The City has just recently finished the re-do of the Main St sidewalks and parking spaces. This is no surprise. Connie Jo Miller has been telling us for the past few months that "the world is coming" and that Lexpark has worked hard to free up the parking spaces in downtown, making them available to all. One of the best parts is the statement about "all parking spaces are FREE after 5:00P.M.

This evening, while walking to my car, I watched the valet parking guys from Bellini's setting up for the supper hour. Waitresses were setting the outside tables and the ladies from Taste of Thai were sweeping and preparing. An auto, bearing Florida plates, pulled into a space on the CentrePointe side of the street, the driver sat idling and the valet raced across the street (No, he did not use the crosswalk or wait for the light) and approached the drivers side.

It seems that Bellini's has an agreement with the City to appropriate three of these "free" parking spaces for their "valet service". It was not yet 5:00 and so the spaces still were on the clock - so to speak.

The valet's supervisor also approached the car and explained that the sign had not been put in place yet, but the spaces were "reserved". (He also did not use the crosswalk.) I guess that the driver was waiting for someone but he did not want to eat at Bellini's or give his car to a stranger. If it was me, I would have asked for the paperwork to prove that it "was" valet parking spaces.

I really do want all the downtown restaurants to do well, but we have just invested a boatload of cash to make our downtown streets extremely inviting and walkable. We have previously invested even more money to build several parking structures, within easy walking distance, and now our downtown diners don't want to use them? I am not even talking about the foreign visitors, they are not here yet, these are our home-grown taxpayers who won't use what they paid for and complain that they are over taxed.

I truly believe that the government should not be in the parking business. Leave that to private enterprise like the livery stables of old, back when we did not have cars and rode carriages and buggies. I also believe that private enterprise should not "freely appropriate" a portion of something that we all have paid for. I hope that there is a yearly fee for the use of these parking spaces. If there is, it should be set by Lexpark but approved by the Council, so that we all know what it is.

Over the last year, the city has given Bellini's and the other downtown establishments some beautiful new dining and relaxing spaces, and I hope that there are more to come. The Mill St proposal comes to mind and the Esplanade. The walkable downtown streets should encourage our patrons to linger a while and walk off a bit of dinner, not hop out of the car - eat - hop in the car and go. That is what drive-ins and drive-thrus are for. You do notice that we don't have any of those downtown, don't you?

In the next few weeks, crowds will throng around downtown(or so we are told) and the CentrePointe block and some will remember what Connie Jo told them about free parking spaces and most of them will be using the sidewalks for their intended purpose, walking. At some point(hopefully in the not to distant future) some sort of construction WILL occur on the block and the curb lane parking spaces WILL disappear (temporarily?) Will Bellini's cry foul them, or not?

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