Short North Employees Feel Impact of Meter Changes

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It’s been about three months since the city of Columbus changed its parking meter rates and hours. While the adjustments are generating additional revenue for the city, WOSU reports its causing hardship on those who work in the Short North.

It’s just before the start of the lunch rush, and restaurants and businesses on the Cap and in the Short North soon will get busy. A small group of people sit in Sushi Rock while others trickle in. Eric Clark is the general manager. He said his employees are feeling the biggest impact from the meter changes.

“They rely on the street parking to park their cars throughout the shift. And certainly the price has gone up, but moreover the times have changed. It’s caused a lot of inconvenience,” he said.

Three months ago, on any given afternoon or evening it was common to see men and women in wait staff and line cook uniforms park their vehicles along Goodale Park. They wouldn’t be back until the end of their shift. Now it’s common to see those employees running back to their cars two and three times a shift to feed the meter. That’s because what once was a 12-hour meter is now a two-hour meter.

And the rates have changed, too. Forty cents used to get you an hour along Goodale Park. That’ll cost you 75 cents now.

In addition to meter hours and rates , the city also extended enforcement to 10 p.m. in restaurant, theatre and other evening entertainment areas…areas like the Short North.

While the city expects the higher rates to generate an additional $2.1 million a year, they are wreaking havoc on restaurant servers and other employees in the area.

“My name is Doug Sanders. I work at Cup-O-Joe as a barista.”

Sanders usually parks along Goodale Park.

“For a six- to eight-hour shift it was roughly about $2.00, $2.50. And now it’s somewhere up to $6 to $10 depending on how long it is,” he said.

Sanders said the changes have affected business. He noticed customers do not stick around as long as they used to because they have to feed the meter.

“We’ve given out incredibly more parking change; people are coming in just needing quarters. And tips have definitely gone down because people have less change on their hands,” he said.

Sanders’ story is not unique.

Jesse Vitt is a manager at Lemongrass Fusion Bistro just up the street from Cup-O-Joe. He said the meter increases and time changes have been a hassle for customers. But Lemongrass offers valet.

“And I think that helps out because most people eating usually eat between an hour and two hours and that’s enough time to use the meters if they want. But then they want to get drinks downtown and walk around. So if they want to stay longer than two hours then they have to go back and feed the meter or hope that the valet us going to do it for them. Correct. That’s exactly right,” Vitt said.

Erin Packer is a server at Lemongrass. She said she does not think the city took into account restaurant employees when it changed the meter hours.

“If you’re in the middle of a rush you’re not even thinking about oh I was supposed to be out at my meter five minutes ago. You have no idea what time it is. So if you’re full, and you have a bunch of tables, you realize at 9:30, when everything slows down, oh no I never did put money in my meter I hope they didn’t notice,” Packer said.

So to help cut back on parking tickets, Packer and other Lemongrass workers started biking to work. But she said,”Unfortunately then at night tires have been getting stolen from the bikes. So it’s really been a frustrating situation for a lot of people here recently.”

Other businesses have had to get creative to keep customers and keep them happy.

Lauren Reed manages Jacob Neal Salon at the corner of High and Russell Streets. Reed said to help clients avoid tickets, employees will run out to feed their meters.

Doug Oilar owns Three Dog Bakery near High Street and Poplar Avenue. Oilar said in an effort to buffer meter changes for their customers, they worked out a valet agreement with a nearby restaurant to offer free valet.

“Because there are a lot of people who comment on parking in the Short North generally, even before the meter change, and they don’t like to come down here because of the meters,” Oilar said.

Oilar and other Short North business owners are keeping their fingers crossed the meter changes will not have long-term effects on their bottom lines.