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Valet Companies Continue to Disregard City Rules

August 14, 2007 Downtown, Politics/Policy, Valet Parking 39 Comments

In the blocks of Washington Ave east of Tucker we cannot have on-street parking for local businesses from 4pm to 6pm as this is our evening rush period. We don’t really have a rush of traffic for two hours so much as we have a half hour when everyone leaves their parking garages at the same time and the signal timing on the lights doesn’t help with traffic flow. So keeping two lanes open seems to be the solution at this time. Well, except for Copia.


Yesterday afternoon, at 5:40pm, the valets had taken the right rush hour lane for their own personal use. They are granted a very generous valet zone which begins at 6pm but that is simply not good enough for them.  Despite being repeatedly told that cones and signs are now allowed in the public right of way, they continue to use these items which can be a danger to cyclists.

Again we are talking 5:40pm on a Monday evening.  We don’t exactly see a long line of cars to be valet parked this early and on a Monday. 

A few weeks earlier they were marking off additional parking meters as no parking valet area — beyond the assigned valet zone.  When I was taking pictures they approached me with permits from both the city streets department and the city Treasurer’s office (that handles meters) and said it was allowed.  It seems the Treasurer’s office is willing to issue permits that grant a business the right to take the meter despite what the Street Department says about a valet permit and only so much space.  It would appear that our political fragmentation in our region has little to do with the city not being part of the county but even within the city limits having too many entities all saying they have jurisdiction.  So who is it really that has the power to authorize valets to operate in the city? 

Meter parking is free downtown after 7pm weekdays and on weekends.  Are we now going to have valets getting permits from the Treasurer to take those free spaces in addition to what the Street Dept has already granted? 


Currently there are "39 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jim Zavist says:

    And this is news?! As has been pointed out many times before, until the “system” changes, and enforcement moves beyond “who you know’, the staus quo will endure . . .

    [SLP — I now know the Captain of the 4th District so hopefully he can get his bike & foot officers to monitor this issue.]

  2. insider says:

    i agree with jim….this is NOT a big deal, get over it

  3. Thor Randelson says:

    I disagree, I think this is a huge issue. Many suburbanites (and urbanites) who would go downtown avoid it because they want either free parking or parking within sight of where they want to go. Stuff like the above reduces the availability of such parking and thereby reduces the attractiveness of visiting Washington Avenue.

  4. Jim Zavist says:

    While it’s not “news”, it is a big issue, especially one of perception and equity. One, many people would rather not trust their car to a valet. Two, many people would rather park on the street and not in a garage. Three, “free”, on-street parking is meant to attract customers to all retail businesses downtown, not just a select, “chosen” few. And four, these are PUBLIC streets, not an extension of the businesses operating adjacent to them. But until the people in pwer “get it”, those who “get the ear” of those in power will continue to get special treatment . . .

  5. Ben H says:

    Suburbanites and city residents who only occasionally come downtown already think downtown is a big hassle. They know they may have to deal with dysfunctional traffic signals, one way streets, surly restaurant owners claiming special privileges, every other sidewalk blocked by construction fencing, maybe actually see homeless persons “gasp”. Add valet parking (taking away other parking) and it becomes just too convoluted. The businesses on Washington Ave should give up the valet parking scheme because it discourages patrons, in my opinion.

  6. I happened to drive by there right at that time and took note of the valets. Then I noticed you and expected a post soon.

  7. steveo says:


    Thanks for continuing to cover this. It’s complete bu11sh1t that these guys keep doing this. Seriously, what’s the point? In Chicago, D.C., Boston and many other cities there are a lot of valet parking zones and I’ve honestly never seen one half as large as what Copia has. What a bunch of crap! There is absolutely no conceivable reason that a valet service needs this much space! Keep fighting and help us make sure we can use the street as a place to park.

  8. Shawna says:

    Yep, we don’t drive to dinner downtown specifically because of the valets, either. The added price/hassle of parking vs. alternatively another drink+tip somewhere else. Sometimes, the valet situation also smacks of a class distinction in addition to greed… or maybe I’m just a little insecure about my tiny Hyundai.

  9. LisaS says:

    I don’t have a problem with valet parking (except that for some reason there are a lot of valets who don’t drive a stick!)–especially since most of those restaurants are so expensive that normal people can only eat there for special occassions anyway … but I do have a problem with the appropriation of all the public parking for the benefit of a few businesses, and the parochialism (Treasurer’s Office vs. Streets Dept.) and lack of enforcement that fosters continuance of this practice.

  10. Dole says:

    The valet situation is a problem for two reasons. First, the large amount of space taken up causes the street to look dead. The valets don’t need a whole ‘valet lane’ on the street, but rather just take a few spots directly in front of the restaurant so a car can be momentarily parked. Second, there are a lot of people that just don’t want to use valet parking for a wide variety of reasons. maybe they feel awkward about valet parking a car that costs a lot less than a Benz, maybe they don’t trust leaving a stick shift with a teenage boy that probably hasn’t been trained, or maybe they just don’t feel like paying an additional charge for something that should be ‘free’ because they are already paying taxes for the roads…………bottom line, there needs to be room for everybody from valets to private citizens parking in marked spots.

  11. insider says:

    seriously, what are we talking about here, 3 parking meters? maybe?

    get over it people

  12. urban says:

    ^ Agreed. Let’s talk about making all city streets 2-way instead. Heck, if alleys can be 2-way, there’s no reason most streets can’t be two way, is there?

  13. Dole says:

    I agree on making streets 2-way. On the valet issue, it shouldn’t be brushed aside because it seems like a smaller issue. To make the city great, all issues big and small must be addressed. All the small issues add up to become big issues.

  14. LisaS says:

    It looks like half a block +/- in addition to the area immediately in front of the restaurant, which is a bit much for one business, don’t you think? Another thought … could adjacent restaurants share like they do at Chez Leon/Moxy in the CWE?

  15. planner says:

    We’ve never used a valet in downtown, and never plan to. We’ll walk, and save the money.

  16. DT Driver says:

    Isn’t this block of Washington pretty much devoid of traffic during regular business hours? And if so, even if they are violating city rules, are they causing any traffic snarls? A bigger issue in my mind is the total lack of any traffic cops around the Old Court House and Memorial Drive at rush hour. That situation is a total clusterf*** and no one seems to care. Add in a ballgame and an event at the Convention Center, and things get totally out of control. You’d think from a public safety standpoint, someone would do something.

  17. Adam says:

    thanks, insider. i was totally not going to get over it until you came along and suggested that we get over it. now i’m totally over it! here’s an idea, since nobody here is going to get over it why don’t you stop wasting your breath?

  18. DT Driver says:

    Perhaps “insider” is suggesting we prioritize our concerns and activism. Given a choice, I’d rather see a focus on improving traffic conditions around the Old Court House than the 1000 block of Washington Ave.

  19. downtown says:

    You STL people are such lightweights! You say you want hustle and bustle, but you complain about a little downtown traffic. Try downtown Boston or New York at rush hour, then come back to STL and tell us what we have to complain about. Two, maybe three blocks of congestion? Pfffft.

  20. I would argue that both could be worked on. That’s like saying “let’s clean up schools before we worry about crime.” Why not do both?

  21. DT Driver says:

    ^ Then you would be watering down your resources, and getting less done. Since we are into analogies, think of the choice dilemma as if it were a mountain of credit card debt. Credit counselers agree the best way to pay off debt is to pay off the account with the lowest balance first, then apply that payment amount to the next lowest account balance, and so on, until all the accounts are paid.

    The alternative of paying minimum payments on all the accounts gets you nowhere or you wind up going backwards. Resources for activism are limited. If we don’t prioritize, we’ll never get anything done.

  22. insider says:

    i’m glad dt driver “gets it”…..there are so many other traffic issues downtown we could and SHOULD be discussing, it is really silly to get this stirred up over a few parking spaces

  23. constant change says:

    ‘a few spaces’
    it’s 1/2 a block. If one business on each street wanted a 1/2 block valet zone…
    and then…
    but, THEY CAN DO IT….

    It doesn’t dillute our resources to stop a problem on the horizon before it is a big deal.

  24. DT Driver says:

    Q: Why are there no traffic cops directing traffic through downtown’s few notorious trouble spots? That would help tremendously.

    [SLP — Exactly.  Instead of getting a few traffic cops in the center of the intersections along Washington to keep traffic moving we must keep four lanes (two per direction) open.  We should have meters up and down the street on both sides and keep collecting revenue  during the morning and evening rush periods.]

  25. DT Driver says:

    Hey Constant Change – look at the pictures…the street is almost empty. Try navigating the blocks around the Old Court House at rush hour. That’s where the real trouble is.

    [SLP — It is weird, sometimes there is no traffic at all on Washington or around the Old Court House (not to be confused with Old Post Office or Old Cathedral).  The cycles are unpredictable.  Still, we should have some of our new foot patrol officers walk over to the signal controls, put them on red flash and then start directing traffic immediately following normal work hours.  15-20 minutes later everything would be back to normal.]

  26. Adam says:

    “i’m glad dt driver ‘gets it’…..there are so many other traffic issues downtown we could and SHOULD be discussing, it is really silly to get this stirred up over a few parking spaces”

    those “few parking spaces” are a side-effect of a much bigger issue, which has to do with the TREASURER’S OFFICE undermining the STREET DEPARTMENT concerning matters of the STREET – a little dysfunctional, don’t you agree? i would call that a pretty major issue as it sets a dangerous precedent in local politics: if you’re a greedy business owner you just make nice with the right department to get what you want!

  27. maurice says:

    and it is happening all over the city. I use to like eating at Culpeppers in the west end. But now there is valet parking and as you know there is a fire hydrant right out their front door. So you have a few feet of open sidewalk, a hydrant, and then valet parking. Now some SOB parks in the few feet before the hydrant. When I eat outside, I want to see people, not cars, and not eat in a parking lot.

    streets belong to the public.

  28. Josh says:

    I really enjoy this site and love the fact that people are discussing the important issues of our revitalizing city. Steve incites a lot of great debate on a bunch of relevant issues, large and small. There’s a lot of intelligent conversation… that said, a lot of what I also see here sometimes amounts to some empty complaining. Where’s the action? It seems like a lot of these posts end up batting around the issue for a while, and then they peter out. Is anything ever done? If so many people don’t like or agree with how the city’s run, or even with the manner that even a simple issue like this is handled, aren’t there avenues to change it? It’s our city. We vote people into office, we’re responsible for making our city officials aware of problems and concerns, we live here, we vote on local propositions and so forth, we attend neighborhood meetings… A lot of people here are right, the couple of spaces taken up by Copia’s valet parking are not a huge deal right now, but the precedent it sets could lead to huge deals down the road (quite literally). I’m fine with changing it and nipping it in the bud (as well as approaching these issues from a much wider overall Downtown planning perspective), but let’s take some kind of action, mobilize some folks, organize. Let’s actually solve the problems we encounter. And hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully there is a lot of successful action being taken to rectify these problems and I just don’t hear about it. But I fear that so many of the city’s organizational and governmental problems continue to persist due to the lack of real leadership and action, from not only it’s city officials, but it’s residents and business owners. Am I completely off base? Is there some other reason that the same excuses for this city’s persistent problems continue to come up in so many of these conversations?

  29. Drad says:

    I also think it’s great that these topics are being discussed.

    Personally- I’ll go out of my way to avoid ever using Valets.
    Copia obviously thinks they are pretty special. Maybe THEY should “get over” themselves?

    I’m going to go to bed now, and “get over it”….

  30. WWSPD says:

    AMEN, Josh.

  31. samizdat says:

    Someone with a bicycle and a milk crate could make those bothersome cones go away. One cone, two cone, three cone, b-bye. Oh, horrors! Your not suggesting(sputter)…theft?! Why, yes, I am. While I’m at it: OT, perhaps the residents of Halliday on S. Grand should “accidentally” jackhammer the illegal parking lot constructed without there knowledge or approval. Misdemeanor and a small fine, big whoop. That’ll certainly show the alderman that Bidness as usual won’t be tolerated. A little guerilla activism to effect change is sometimes needed.

  32. Jim Zavist says:

    George Hayduke – google it . . . not that I’d ever advocate using his tactics . . .

  33. Webby says:

    And why IS that parking pad on Halliday still there?!

  34. Dave says:

    3 parking meters, insider? It’s practically the whole block as it includes the meters and the lengthy fire lane! I know, I live on it. For downtown to succeed, consideration must be given to all parties — Not just those that grease the wheels of the body politic. Pressure just might need to be applied again.

  35. Greg says:

    Looks like this problem has been “solved”… Copia was destroyed in a four alarm fire this morning.

  36. John W. says:

    I’m with Josh on organizing. I share the frustration. Seems some meetups wouldn’t be out of order.

  37. John W. says:

    Good anti-spam word- “smartgrowth”.

  38. John W. says:

    I can attest to the miserable congestion around the old courthouse because I work in an office 18 stories above the sidewalk in the old Boatman’s Bank building across Chestnut. I get a bird’s eye view of the problem right below. I’ve never seen so many knuckleheads inch out into the intersection of Broadway and Chestnut while the light is green, only to be trapped in the middle when the light turns red. I ride Metrolink, so I’m not personally affected, but this really is a problem that could use a traffic cop… maybe even a dancing traffic cop.

  39. john w. says:

    somewhat related to the traffic congestion around the old courthouse (as a result of the exodus to the freeway accesses from Memorial Drive) are the horrendous twin garages of Keiner East and West and the face they present to the city, especially as a such a large delimiting edge of Keiner Plaza. It would be interesting to see these twin buildings refaced and retopped with some residential units capping the parking decks below.


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