Bartender Says WeHo's New Extended Parking Meter Hours Are Hurting Local Bar Scene
Visitors to West Hollywood aren't the only ones feeling the pain of the new extended parking meter hours. Some of those hardest hit by the move, which went into effect on July 1, are restaurant and bar workers in the city's busy nightlife scene. They used to be able to park for free after 8 p.m., now with meters running until midnight, they either have to park at ridiculously far garages or shell out for parking.
P., a friend who asked that I not use his full name, works as a bartender in WeHo. He says that the city's move to extend parking meeting hours leaves him and other restaurant employees in a tough spot.
"There are hundreds of servers and bartenders who now have no place to park without paying for a parking garage," P. says, since moving their car or feeding the meter every two hours is hardly doable. He figures he'll have to spend $50 a month on parking now.
He said that at a meeting at his restaurant, a representative from the city explained they were giving out parking passes for locations at Beverly and Doheny, which isn't exactly convenient to anyone working in the heart of West Hollywood's bar scene on Santa Monica Boulevard or the Sunset Strip.
That was the very point made by former West Hollywood City Council candidate Sam Borelli at the meeting in April when the measure was adopted, according to Patch. He argued it's not safe for bartenders and waiters to be walking so far so late at night, especially with a lot of cash on them.
"It's about the person who works at Gym Bar or Micky's... They're now going to have to walk back to an employee space on West Knoll and Melrose at 3 a.m., wearing their Micky's shirt and their tips stuffed in their pockets. There is crime happening in and around our city, and employees walking further way from lit areas and a lot of the public is really scary."
"This is West Hollywood, we enjoy our free parking," said another former city council candidate Lucas John at the same meeting. "What's right for Boystown isn't right for Westside Residents Association," arguing that the move favors certain residents. "They're happy that we're not going to be able to park in their area, and that no partygoers are going to have a chance, because they're going to have to keep going back."
(Interestingly enough, out-of-control partying on Sunset Strip that spilled over into nearby residential streets was one of the reasons that locals pushed for West Hollywood to become its own city in the first place.)
The rep who spoke at P.'s restaurant insisted that metered parking was never intended as "employee parking." She said that the money raised would go toward increased security, but he's concerned there won't be nearly enough security for the hundreds of employees forced to park nearly a mile from where they work.
Not only is the policy inconvenient for restaurant workers, P. argues, it's damaging to the very lifeblood of WeHo's nightlife since it also discourages diners and anyone coming into the area from parking for very long. "Now that the meters are only two hours, people coming into West Hollywood at night are forced to either stay out two hours or less (not likely), only come out after 10, or park in the lots and pay $10, or of course, get a ticket," he explained.
Councilman John D'Amico, who was the only council member to vote against the extended meter hours, was quoted by Patch as saying that he wanted to offer the parking pass to visitors as well as restaurant employees. "I'm concerned that it's too restrictive," he said of the current parking situation.
"The city claims that it is bad for business that all the parking spots are taken up by workers," P. says. "The claim is that people coming into the city can't find street parking and shouldn't have to park in the provided garages. I would make the claim that most of the people coming into West Hollywood at night are coming in for the bars and restaurants. I can't see anyone arguing that point."
Former West Hollywood Transportation Commissioner Scott Schmidt told LA Weekly earlier this month that not only is the city's "reduction of greenhouse gases" claim ridiculous, but the real motive here is that the city is trying to pay for its $64-million library, which just happens to have a large public garage attached to it. With meters running until midnight, the Weekly points out that garage parking is suddenly more attractive and less of a hassle than metered parking.
Schmidt said that West Hollywood tried to extend parking meter hours in the 1990s, but were forced to actually roll back hours because of the public backlash. "People wanted free parking at night. It was expected." Schmidt opposed the plan to extend meter hours. He was not asked back by the city as transportation commission when his term ended in May.
"Nothing has been gained or made better for anyone so the city's argument that they are doing it for the people is bullshit," P. says. "It has made it worse for everyone involved. I wish West Hollywood would go back to spending tens of thousands on painting rainbows in the street and leaving the restaurant and bar workers alone."
Councilman John Duran explained at the April meeting, "What it comes down to is we're managing inventory. We have a limited supply of parking and a high demand. It's just macro-economics. If you have one set of T-shirts that say, 'Shop West Hollywood,' and they're selling like hotcakes, and you have another set that say 'Shop WeHo' that nobody is buying, those are the ones you'll give away for free. You're not going to give away the ones that are selling like hotcakes.
"Where there is high demand and limited supply, you let the market forces take care of it," Duran said, "and where you have an overabundance of supply, and limited demand, that's where you do freebies."
In other words: "Suck, it, WeHo residents and visitors."