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Restaurateurs decry Raleigh plan to charge for downtown parking

Posted July 6, 2015

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— After fighting with the city over sidewalk dining, downtown restaurant owners are now pushing Raleigh officials to reverse their plans to start charging people who use city-owned parking garages on nights and weekends.

As part of the 2015-16 budget that the Raleigh City Council approved last month, public parking decks downtown will start charging a flat $5 fee on Dec. 31 to park on nights and weekends. Officials say they need the estimated $1 million in annual revenue that the new parking fee would generate to clean and maintain the city-owned decks.

"Sunday through Thursday, downtown Raleigh dining is hit or miss, so we don’t need one more reason for people to not choose eating in downtown," said Sean Degnan, owner of Buku, a restaurant on East Davie Street. "There are a lot more $5 bills to be made Friday, Saturday and Sunday rather than Sunday through Thursday."

Degnan said he plans to propose to Raleigh officials at Tuesday's City Council meeting to try out fees on a smaller scale, such as 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on weekends.

He also said nightly parking fees would be a burden for his workers and would hurt his bottom line.

"We already pay for a valet service. That’s $2,000 a month, and we can’t afford to pay $5 to park every car," he said.

City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin, who represents the downtown area and opposed the parking fee, said she hopes city staffers can work with restaurant owners on a compromise before the fees take effect.

"For people who are making just above minimum wage, charging them $5 to park, that’s a hardship," Baldwin said of restaurant workers.

Restaurant owners are already part of a city task force to address complaints over Raleigh's plans to crack down on downtown bars with sidewalk seating.

"This is part of the growing pains that exist," Baldwin said. "You go to other big cities, and they do charge for parking."

Wilmington, Charlotte and Asheville all charge to park downtown on nights and weekends, while Durham does not.

Tim Cheek said he doesn't really want to pay a parking fee whenever he goes downtown for dinner or a drink, but he said he understands Raleigh's position.

"If they’re going to use the money to make the decks better, by all means," Cheek said, noting stairwells in the city-owned garages often reek of urine.

"I’ll probably ride my bike more" to avoid the parking fee, he added.

16 Comments

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  • George Herbert Jul 7, 2015
    user avatar

    I never park in the city parking decks. I always find parking on the street. As long as they don't start charging for that at night (like Chapel Hill does), I'm fine.

  • Brad Carey Jul 7, 2015
    user avatar

    It already costs about $15 in gas, wear and tear to drive from Apex to Raleigh (and back). That's already enough to deter us from going Downtown very often. This will certainly deter us further.

    I wish we had a realistic mass transit option like the Lynx light rail in Charlotte.

  • Jacob Smith Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    "Restaurants want to put their outside seating on sidewalks they don't own, and have their customers park in spaces they also don't own."

    Excuse me - but who "owns" said streets and parking lots if not the businesses and citizens that paid for them in the first place and continue to pay for them with taxes they pay every year?

    Who "owns" the sidewalks - the city council of Raleigh?

    I agree with another poster here - let's see how much money is collected and exactly where it is going - but such a clear accounting of our tax expenditures will NEVER be seen.

  • David Martin Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    You have to pay to park in every major metro area downtown I have ever visited. If Raleigh wants to be be all upscale downtown, five bucks a night for parking is pretty cheap. And free weeknights... not a bad deal at all. Restaurants want to put their outside seating on sidewalks they don't own, and have their customers park in spaces they also don't own. Sounds pretty one sided and greedy of the downtown restaurants to me.

  • Chip Dipson Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    I think it'll be ok, especially when the light rail can take everyone downtown

  • Pierce McGroin Jul 6, 2015
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    Maybe McLaurin Parking can use some of the money they make from "Administrating" the Parking Decks to pay for the maintenance. McLaurin removed the security cameras from the Moore Square deck after the rape / murder that took place in the Progress Energy Parking Deck instead of getting them repaired or replaced.
    1 million a year is a lot of money for simple Parking Deck maintenance. I'd like to see a proposed budget for how that money was going to be used. If there are plans to repair / replace security cameras and the quite often out of order elevators I think it's a potentially good idea. If there isn't a plan for anything other than cleaning and trash removal I think we are being bamboozled.

  • Jeff McLawhorn Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    Maybe they could use some of that money to put lights in the overhead street signs... the City of Raleigh looks like a slum town at night.. poor signage and what is up.. looks like it was installed 30 years ago..

  • Craig Elliott Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    Two thoughts:
    1. Charlotte, Wilmington and Asheville may charge for parking but they're a lot further along with their downtown renaissance than Raleigh is. I'm not sure our downtown renaissance has achieved the critical mass required to be self-sustaining.

    2. When these parking structures were built they had a plan to recoup the investment, to repay the bonds- they had to, or they never should have got the funding in the first place.

  • Patrick Murphy Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    There's an easy solution to this, go to Durham instead!

  • Johnny Friedrich Jul 6, 2015
    user avatar

    The city will never put the money back into the parking decks and everyone knows it. What is interesting is that Raleigh City Council wants downtown to be a work, play, and live area but decisions like these segments this out. I think this is another way to get around their plan of limiting patio seating to basically make it not worth while for a business to do it if the increase parking fee reduces business. Raleigh is very sneaky when it comes to things like this. Also with no real transit system to and from anywhere in Raleigh and now this will over time reduce people to downtown to only those that live there. People will start going to North Hills, Brier Creek and similar areas and not downtown. Raleigh is nickel and diming people which in time will come back to bite them. Another bad idea because there is no logic behind it. Raleigh needs to enforce the current laws before making new ones. What ever happened to the money toward street and sidewalk improvements.

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