October 11, 2010

In Other News: Old Town Businesses Fight Parking Regulations

Old Town boutique owners are taking action against increased parking rates tomorrow by protesting outside of City Hall in advance of the City Council Meeting at 7 p.m. The boutique owners issued the following statement in advance of the protest. As Deacon is obviously a champion of local businesses (and small businesses in particular), we felt it important to share this information with our readers in hopes that they too will champion the cause.
"Recently, the City of Alexandria increased parking rates in Old Town Alexandria in response to a parking study completed last year.  Small businesses, particularly retail stores, are bearing the brunt of this decision.  Shoppers feel rushed to complete their shopping as quickly as possible to avoid getting tickets.  Retail stores are pressured to fill the gap between shoppers who don’t have enough quarters to feed the meters and no real means but to get quarters from a nearby store.  Thus, stores are finding they have to run to the bank every day to get rolls and rolls of quarters to accommodate customers in hopes of relieving their stress and luring them to shop.
The issue with parking rates in Old Town is not the fact that the City decided to raise the rates.   The issue is that the City failed to completely understand the impact of not providing alternative means to pay the meters.  Nowhere in historic Alexandria, unlike neighboring DC and Arlington, is there multi-space meters that take alternative payment methods such as a credit cards or dollar bills.   Nowhere in historic Alexandria is there a machine to convert dollars into quarters.  And, not everywhere in historic Alexandria is there affordable City sponsored parking options. 
Stores are really feeling the pinch.  Unfortunately, this decision comes on the heels of nearly two years of a recession and one of the worst winters in the DC area that significantly disrupted revenue for retail stores during the Holiday season and thereafter.  Finally, when retail stores in Old Town begin to see a glimmer of hope with the economy turning around and the weather turning warmer, the City decides to raise parking meter rates without the proper infrastructure to lessen the burden on small businesses.    If that isn’t enough, the City is also considering extending the parking meter hours.  So, instead of ending at 6 pm or 7 pm, the City wants to make the meters valid until 10 pm.   While it might not affect much of the retail businesses in Old Town, it will certainly impact restaurants.  
To encourage the City to rethink its policies until the proper infrastructure is in place, small business owners are planning a demonstration at City Hall on October 12 before the City Council’s regular meeting at 7 pm.   We want the City to “Put the Brakes on Parking Rates” until the proper infrastructure is in place to keep customers and visitors coming to the City." 

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