Several Loop business owners spoke in opposition to a proposal to charge for evening parking at Monday night's City Council meeting.
"We are scraping by," said Kelly von Plonski, owner of Subterranean Books. "If people have to start to pay to park, fewer people will come to the Loop," she said.
Von Plonski has been very public about her bookstore's struggle to stay open in these tough economic times. In February, she said if sales didn't start to turn around she would be out of business by September.
Jessica Bueler, the owner of HSB Tobacconist located at 6363 Delmar and the newly elected President of the Loop Special Business District said free parking is one of the things that helped bring the Loop back.
"It's not worth risking the delicate balance of this vibrant shopping district to charge for parking," she said. She believes free parking allows the Loop to be competitive with malls and other shopping areas. "I ask you to please not risk hurting the ability of the Loop to attract visitors at this very fragile time for small, owner-operated businesses," she said.
The proposal to charge a $1.00 for evening parking at two City owned lots which currently have no parking fees is included in a proposed 2012 budget balancing initiative that City Manager Lehman Walker has presented to city council members.
The lots in question are the parking areas behind Cicero's that stretch to Market Pub House and to Starbucks, and the lot behind Fitz's. The City estimates that charging a dollar for night parking would generate at least $210,000 a year.
However, Jeff Weintrop, Vice Chairman of the Loop Special Business District and owner of The Silver Lady in the Loop disputes the City's figure. "A quick calculation means that the entire lots would not only have to be full 365 days a year - it would also have to turn over at a rate of 1.4 times every evening to meet this estimate."
He asked the council to table and dismiss the parking fee proposal.
The parking fees will require a separate vote from the vote on the budget.