Restaurateurs decry Raleigh plan to charge for downtown parking
Posted July 6, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.