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Bar Patrons Aren't Celebrating Towing Fees

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RALEIGH — Some Raleigh bar patrons say they're being punished for drinking and letting someone else drive them home. Their cars are being towed from downtown parking lots.

After voicing their complaints, some bar owners are changing the way they do business.

"No Parking" signs crowd the streets in downtown Raleigh. That's why nightclubs lease space in local parking lots for their patrons. The problem is, lot owners expect those cars to be gone in the morning. That means some people are forced to choose between driving drunk and a steep towing fee.

John Thomas runs Jillian's, a popular downtown bar. He says it's not uncommon for his customers' cars to be towed.

"Everybody who's got a lot in Raleigh has signs that say they'll tow, and they will definitely tow. Anybody who's been down here and had their car towed will attest to that. They will tow you in a second," said Thomas.

Beth Leach lost her 26-year-old son to a drunk driver in 1990. She fears the towing threat encourages drunk driving.

"If you know that your car's not going to be there when you come to pick it up, it really would be a temptation for them to think 'well, maybe I can get by with it this one time,'" said Leach. "That one time, something may happen and you've made a very, very bad choice."

Paul Woo, who owns a new club called the Warehouse, says he doesn't want his patrons to have to make this choice.

"If you don't want to drive home," said Woo. "If they don't feel comfortable, we provide parking in the back of our building so they can leave their car there until the next morning at a reasonable time for them to pick it up."

Woo made his decision after several of his customers were towed from the lot he uses at night. Other club owners say they will follow suit.

Another option is the city's 24-hour parking garage. People do have to pay for those overnight hours, but it's still much less than the $80 to $100 towing fee.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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