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Valet Video: New & Improved — Now Confrontation-Free!

October 6, 2006 Downtown, Parking, Politics/Policy, Site Info, Valet Parking 15 Comments

My post from Tuesday evening with video of the owner of Copia received much attention and a fair amount of both praise and criticism. Curious if anything had changed I returned to Washington Avenue Thursday night with camera in hand. This time I did a couple of things differently — I did not talk to anyone, staying completely away from the valets and the restaurants themselves (Copia in the 11xx block and Lucas Park Grille in the 12xx block). The video is far less exciting than the confrontation on Tuesday evening but it is telling about the extent of the situation.

Every non-coned public parking space between 10th and 14th was taken last night when I was there after 9pm. The only empty spaces in this four block stretch were spaces coned off by a single valet company, Midwest Valet, while employed by Copia and Lucas Park.

The video and sound quality are a bit poor as my still camera’s video feature doesn’t do too well when moving at night. But, you’ll be able to get the idea. The first video is in the 11xx block of Washington Ave. I start at Tucker and walk toward 11th. I’m on the north side of the street looking over at the block containing Copia (it is the beautiful 2-story building with the 3 arched windows). Once the valet sees me he begins to make a few calls and eventually moves the cones from the street. Remember, the police were there just two nights ago and told them to move the cones.

The 11xx block of Washington Ave has a total of 10 marked parking spaces. Four are in front of Baseline which is to the east of Copia. The SUV parked in the far east end of the block is actually in a yellow no-parking zone. Moving to the west of the four spaces in front of Baseline we have a fire hydrant and then a single parking space directly in front of Copia. We then have another no-parking area for a buildings’ fire standpipe. Five additional spaces are on the western half of the block. The valets should be able to operate by taking the single space in front of the restaurant combined with the two non-parking spaces. I will return to measure this width to see what that would give them but it is greater than 60ft. This would leave 9 public spaces for patrons of Copia or other establishments (or friends of residents). Copia is in the 7th Ward.

In the next video I am in the 12xx block of Washington Ave where Lucas Park Grille is just as abusive by taking two sides of the street. We start off with a valet that just made a u-turn in the street to park a car across from the restaurant in a public space they had coned off. It should be noted, the Director of Streets Jim Suelmann has issued LPG a permit to have all these spaces but indicates they are only for the drop off and pickup of cars — that all cars should be moved to sites elsewhere. Clearly, that is not what is happening here. A couple of clubs are open and active in this block and several places are open late in the next block to the west. However, the only vacant spots are those coned off by the valet company for the use by LPG and the sushi place next door.

The point of all this is we do have things going on downtown and along Washington Ave but a few businesses are being overly aggressive in their use of the public street and public parking. We need balance. Lucas Park Grille is in the 5th Ward.

Currently nobody is taking any responsibility for the problem. The valets say they are doing their job. The restaurant owners say they (via the valet company) have a permit for this much space, the Treasurer’s office (which is responsible for parking revenues) has no policy, the aldermen won’t act on a complaint unless from a constituent, the Director of Streets says he doesn’t have the ability to enforce the permits he issues and in reality the police have much more important things to worry about. But the reality is we paid dearly for these streetscapes and much is riding on their long-term success. The demand for the spaces is there but they are reserved for a select few.


Currently there are "15 comments" on this Article:

  1. Anthony Coffin says:

    This is infuriating, the restaurants need to make sure the valet comany is following the letter of the law. This may seem like a small thing to a lot of people. Though it is a big deal for people trying to park downtown, and for people who want to see a vibrant street life downtown.

    I don’t understand, are concerned citizens supposed to enforce the parking codes? People need to let the restaurants know we don’t approve of this “we own the streets” attitude.

  2. Urban Reader says:


    Some day, it would be interesting to get your take on the city’s placement of parking meters outside of downtown. It’s hard to understand their approach.

    For example, North Grand is an area with lots of surplus parking spaces, however block after block has parking meters. Nonetheless, you seldom see anyone from the city checking the meters-or emptying them.

    N. 14th Street and St. Louis Avenue near Crown Candy are lined with parking meters, probably bringing in a tidy sum to the Treasurer’s Office.

    Yet popular south side establishments like The Royale and The Famous Barr are pretty much meter free zones. Actually, in the case of The Famous Bar, it’s even odder. There are no meters on Chippewa-only on the side street-Brannon.

    If the city installs parking meters near Crown Candy on the North Side, why not place meters along Ivanhoe in Epiphany parish? There are plenty of popular businesses along Ivanhoe, like Pizza-A-Go-Go and others.

    So why frustrate decide to frustrate Crown patrons, but not Pizza-A-Go-Go patrons?

    Do the aldermen have anything to do with this? Or is it solely up to Larry Williams.

    Can a business owner protest the installation of meters?

    Can anyone shed light on this issue?

  3. Answer Man says:

    Here’s an excerpt from the city’s online ordinance directory:

    Decisions re. parking meters are made by the City’s Parking Commission, with support from
    the Board of Aldermen. The “Parking Supervisor” is City Treasurer Larry Williams.

    17.62.050 Powers and duties.

    A. The Parking Commission shall have authority to install parking meters, institute parking permit programs and special parking zones along the streets and in other public areas where the parking of motor vehicles is not prohibited, including mixed use, special business, and special use districts, and residential areas as necessary to effectively control public parking. Parking permit programs shall also be subject to the approval of any alderman in whose ward the program is instituted.

    B. The Parking Supervisor is directed to conduct periodic studies and surveys to determine any specific actions required to effectively control public parking, including the number and location of parking meters, the scope and boundaries of parking permit programs and special parking zones, the hours of parking meter operation, the structure of parking violations fines and penalties, and other parking related fees. In making this determination, the Parking Supervisor shall consider the following criteria:

    1. The physical dimensions of the area where public parking is desired;

    2. The availability of public parking spaces in the affected area;

    3. The current and projected estimates of public parking demands in the affected area;

    4. The parking needs of business and commercial establishments in the affected area;

    5. The extent of traffic congestion, illegal parking and related health and safety hazards in the affected area;

    6. The proximity of public transportation to the affected area;

    7. The desire and need of occupants and/or residents of the affected area for permit parking and their willingness to bear any associated administrative cost;

    8. The parking rate, fine and penalty structures employed by comparable jurisdictions; and

    9. The efficiency and effectiveness of parking management and enforcement programs.

    C. Upon making such studies and determinations consistent with generally accepted parking management principles, the Parking Supervisor shall submit any recommended actions to the Parking Commission for review and approval. The Board of Aldermen shall approve or disapprove any such action approved by the Parking Commission no later than the end of the fiscal year in which the action is approved by the Parking Commission. If the Board of Aldermen fails to take action on said measure by the end of the fiscal year, said measure shall become law.

    D. The Treasurer, as Parking Supervisor, shall supervise the installation, maintenance and removal of all parking meters, now and hereinafter installed, and shall equip such meters with timing devices and otherwise modify such meters as deemed necessary to comply with meter classification systems and other parking control systems established by the Parking Supervisor. (Ord. 62101 § 1 (part), 1990: prior Ord. 49997 § 5, 1960: 1960 C. § 885.050.)

  4. StL_Stadtroller says:

    Is parking even allowed on the street in front of the Royale? No need for a meeter in a no-parking zone eh! I have no idea, as the owner allows us to park motorcycles/scooters on the sidewalk in front.

    And Famous Barr? Did this posting come out of a time-warp? 😉

    Again, I say a civil disobedience campaign is in order. If by their own admission the city offices are unable to enforce the permits, just park in the damned spots and see what – if anything – can genuinely be done about it.
    Repeat ad nauseum and bother enough cops with the petty complaints and I guarantee we’ll see action sooner rather than later.

    If the businesses taking up these parking spots are not utilizing them for their permitted purpose – the drop-off and IMMEDIATE re-location of customers vehicles – then ergo they have forfieted their rights to said permit.

  5. M says:

    Famous Bar, the bar. Not the department store. A very nice place to hang out, I might add.

  6. Public Partner says:

    The Royale has no parking lot. Many of its customers park on the side street (Hartford?), not Kingshighway.

    The side street is a public street.

    According to the ordinance, the Parking Commission could make a finding to install parking meters on Hartford next to the Royale.

    What triggers this process?

    Oh, it sounds like that’s described in Section “B” above.

    Either way, it would appear that by installing parking meters on public streets next to popular businesses, the city is indirectly “taxing” the customers of popular businesses by taking a cut out of their pocketbook.

    Something about this whole parking meter realm feels highly parasitic.

    [UR – This is certainly an interesting topic and it does seem like the application of meters is not applied evenly. I’ll follow up on that.

    In the meantime let’s stay focused on the topic at hand — the valet situation. They should not take up the entire street nor should we pull the plub altogether. We can find a middle ground. Please contact your alderman and tell him/her you want them to support legislation to bring some order to this wild west parking show. And finally please contact the Director of Streets Jim Suelmann at 647-3111 and ask him to revote the current permits and issue new ones that are more narrowly focused.]

  7. Pasta Don says:

    Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever seeing one parking meter anywhere on The Hill.

    Crown Candy yes, Charlie Gitto’s no.

  8. Ali G says:

    I’ze tinkz St. Luiz iz racialist wid da parkin’.

  9. Brian says:

    Tony’s has long held the entire 400 block of Market for its valet needs, long before restaurants started popping up on Washington Avenue. Of course, Tony’s doesn’t use cones, because the 400 block of Market lacks on-street parking spaces 24/7, having its valet zone in a striped shoulder wide enough for parking but empty any other time.

    [UR – Valid point, I have been by there and snapped a few shots a number of months back but it has not been my focus. First, it is kinda of an island all by itself and we’ve not spent millions on a new streetscape to encourage pedestrian activity. Still, I think Tony’s and a few others need to lighten up with respect to the valet space. This block could certainly benefit from a few on-street spaces.]

  10. Jim Zavist says:

    Parking restrictions (in reality), outside of downtown, are driven by residents and businesses complaining about a lack of on-street parking. The first step is posting time limits without meters, essentially relying on people being honest, and not exceeding the one- or two-hour limit. In reality, enforcement requires two trips, one to mark the tires, and a second in an hour or two to issue tickets. Meters are the next step – it’s easier for the city to cite – you’re either legal or not – but they require an initial investment, emptying and maintenance. It takes a lot of violations to make them cost-effective, thus the recent interest in parking kiosks and the like. The final “solution” is restricting parking to residents only, and requires issuing permanent stickers as well as (usually) creating some sort of “guest” system.

    Bottom line, parking restrictions are put in place to encourage turnover. City streets belong to the public, and logically, dedicating 2 or 3 spaces to a valet parking operation is in this spirit – multiple cars are “using” a few spaces (then, in theory, being moved to private lots or garages). It does sound like this is not happening along Washington, and the streets need to be reclaimed for the greater public good!

  11. now what? says:

    in bold for emphasis.







    I apologize for the caps. I’m just a little TO’d.

  12. publiceye says:

    I am a Washington Avenue resident.

    The street will be pretty lively tonight after 8 pm or so — especially west of Tucker where most of us live right now. Maybe you can get your curfew extended, if you have one?

    You will not get towed unless (1) you park in a public tow-away zone; (2) you park on private property; or (3) you owe unpaid parking tickets accumulated recently and you are parked on public property.

  13. now what? says:

    pubic eye, thanks for the comment. Yes, i will be at 1214 washington for the art exhibit until ten. luckily it ends at 10 so i can get home by my curfew.

    Can i assume that I will be safe (not towed or ticketed) if i park in a coned area? that is what i was trying to ask.

  14. joeb says:

    In Europe, the main streets are wide, very wide with ample sidewalks for walking traffic. Market Street is ripe for redevelopment. Take away the median and street traffic is ripe for development.

  15. GMichaud says:

    The city government is responsible for this mess. They do not do their duty. They should clarify and make public what they expect and what is legal. This dereliction of duty is especially bad after Steve has been asking questions of the city for over a month.
    You go down Washington and all the cones make St. Louis look like a hick town. It is so absurd to hand over a public street to a valet service for one business.
    I know the first time I saw the cones I was instantly offended, it didn’t seem right at the time, and I’m sure other visitors instinctly feel the same. It doesn’t look right and it isn’t right.
    The city government has to become more responsive to the people they serve.


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