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Restaurant Owners Push Back Against Downtown Parking Deck Fees

Downtown Raleigh Skyline viewed from Boylan Ave.
Raleigh's budget calls for downtown parking decks to charge $5 fees on nights and weekends starting in December..

Raleigh restaurant owners will ask the City Council Tuesday to reconsider plans to charge $5 fees at downtown parking decks on nights and weekends.

Parking is currently free after 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday. The Council estimates it will cost $1 million to pay for security and maintenance at night, where public urination has become a problem.

But Buku restaurant owner Sean Degnan  says the new parking fees would be prohibitively expensive to service workers at downtown businesses, forcing them to park an unsafe distance from work. He adds that the fee might drive patrons to eat in other neighborhoods with free parking during the week, avoiding downtown decks.

"Although they're filled to the brim Friday and Saturday night, during the week there's only a few cars on one floor," Degnan says. "So the amount of money the city can make is very little compared to how much it might affect us for the few people going out Sunday night through Thursday night to choose not to go out in downtown Raleigh because you have to pay $5 to park."

The nights-and-weekends fee is set to begin December 31.

David Meeker co-owns several restaurants, including the Busy Bee Cafe. He says he wants the Council to consider charging fees only on the busy weekend nights. This is when security and maintenance needs are high and restaurants' are more able to absorb a financial hit.

Councilwoman-at-Large Mary-Ann Baldwin is sympathetic.

"I don't think there's anybody on the council who wants to see small businesses downtown hurt," says Baldwin. "My hope is that our staff will work with them and that our council will be amenable to some type of compromise."

The City Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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