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Valet Parking Sets Wrong Tone For Downtown

For a good decade now downtown boosters and city leaders have talked about creating a 24/7 downtown. Large doses of valet parking isn’t going to get us there.

I’d argue that too much valet parking sends the wrong message — these are expensive places and unless you can afford a few bucks to avoid walking a block then perhaps you should just stay away.

Now in the last six months or so the valets have been pretty tame compared to a couple of years ago when they’d cone off entire blocks for their use only — adding to the perception of a parking problem downtown.

Those of us that live downtown don’t need valet parking because we are likely to be on foot (or wheelchair). Even those that arrive by car should be encouraged to park & walk. Some in the party like me and unable to walk to far, just drop them off and then find a spot. We need people walking, not just doing the valet thing at the front door.

I personally tend to think of places with valet parking as being too hoity toity for me. Thus I tend to think of other places when contemplating dinner. If others out there have the same tendency then our downtown restaurants that do valet might suffer because their valet service sent the wrong message about their prices.

Image: Signs and cones illegally placed in the street on a slow Sunday afternoon at Lucas Park Grille located on Washington Ave at 13th.


Fire Heavily Damages Downtown Restaurant

Earlier today an act of arson (per the Post-Dispatch) heavily damaged a downtown restaurant as well as adjacent living spaces. Thankfully, everyone was evacuated safely.


Just past 7:30am this morning a few fire trucks were still on the scene that started after 3am, according to news reports. Police had Washington Ave blocked in both directions. Copia was in the main floor of the lovely two story building in the center, above. The Vangard Lofts are to the left, a narrow building is to the right and finally The Meridian to the far right. Residents of all these buildings were evacuated. Unfortunately, The Vangard suffered some smoke & water damage.


From the back, above, we see the rear patio area. The front dining room seemed to have suffered mostly smoke & water damage, as the tables appear ready for dinner. However, the rear of the building was severely damaged.

The back of these buildings front onto St. Charles St., a narrow alley-like street. I’m not sure if parking is allowed on this section of the street. Still, a silver Mustang was parked at the end of Copia’s ramp at the back. The Fire Dept looks to have cut the railing apart to get access to the back entrance. Good thing they had that practice on Lou Hamilton’s diving board!


Above, St. Louis’ new fire chief Dennis Jenkerson changes shoes at the back of his car before leaving the site.


From the front, with the exception of the broken glass and debris, it doesn’t appear a 4-alarm fire just did the damage that it did. Again, the dining room was damaged by smoke and water, not fire.


Later crews were on the scene to board up the building and deal with damage at the Vangard Lofts as well.

Regular readers will note this is the same restaurant where I had my video-tapped confrontation with owner Eyad “ET” Tammas, over valets consuming too much public parking. Despite that, and the on-going valet problems, I would never wish arson upon anyone. Copia, like many other places, was an important part of the downtown scene. I wish them well in their rebuilding. The valet guys, and their tactics to take up more spaces than is fair, can stay gone as far as I am concerned unless they learn to play well with others.


Valets at Lush Block Bike Lane w/Sign

November 2, 2007 Midtown, Valet Parking 18 Comments

A new place opens so that means yet another place with valet parking. Never mind those cyclists.


As you can see above, the bike lane becomes a partial holding lane for bike traffic.


Approaching on Westbound Olive at this point there are no cars but there is a sign in the bike lane.

See, there it is in the above. These images were sent to me from a reader but I’ve heard about it from others as well.


So why must these valets be so insensitive to others? Is is the club owner telling them what to do? Perhaps the valet owners set the mood? Whatever it is, we’ve got to control this. We don’t need cyclists having to avoid signs in the blike lanes.


Valet Companies Continue to Disregard City Rules

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? 


Third Establishment Gets Valet Zone, Others Remain Out of Control

Last night I drove around for a bit over an hour looking for all the valet parking areas I could find. Starting at 9pm, I figure I hit pretty much all of them. In the past I’ve pretty much focused on the 1100 & 1200 blocks of Washington Avenue with Copia and Lucas Park Grille, respectively. Just over a week aga the Department of Streets set up new valet guidelines which includes the establishment of designated valet zones, they started with Copia & Lucas Park Grille. These keep the valets within a certain boundary but also alert motorists where they cannot park after a certain time.
Keep in mind the intent of the valet zones is to provide an on-street space for customers to drop off or pick up their cars — it is not intended to provide any sort of “VIP” parking for really nice cars. Here were my findings last night.

Restaurants w/valet zones:

  • Lucas Park Grille, 12?? Washington, a Range Rover was parked within the no-parking valet zone. Keep in mind they have an 88ft long zone which by many accounts is too long. If they can keep a Range Rover parked there then they don’t need the space.
  • Copia, 1122 Washington, a Maserati and Mercedes were parked within the no-parking valet zone. The Mercedes was parked in a designated no-parking area blocking fire access to stand pipe for an adjacent building — the fire marshall needs to keep a closer eye on them. Copia’s zone is an amazingly long 129ft so it is no wonder they feel they can park two cars within that
  • The Loft, Olive east of Compton, no problems to report. Zone is a very reasonable three spaces long, all were empty around 9:45pm.

Restaurants w/o valet zones:

  • Eleven-Eleven Mississippi, 1111 Mississippi, large amount of space, cones in street reserving spaces.
  • Pepper Lounge, 2005 Locust, cones reserving large number of spaces on both sides of street.
  • Kyo, 14xx Washington Ave, cones in front of business,
  • Dolce, Broadway @ Olive, massive quantity of spaces reserved on both sides of Broadway, charging $5. Midwest Valet.
  • Tony’s, Market St, block-long no-parking zone in front of restaurant was full of cars presumably parked by valets. Should be designated as parking with time slot for valet service like all other establishments or cars should be ticketed or towed from no-parking zone. Tony’s should not receive any special treatment simply because they are Tony’s.
  • Ten14, 1014 Locust, cones on both sides of street.
  • Harry’s, cones on both sides of street creating lanes with cones and signs.
  • Dante’s, Olive west of Compton, cones reserving spaces on both sides of club, Midwest Valet sign placed within marked bike lane.
  • Mandrin, Maryland Plaza, a few cones out but using limited space not yet marked as valet zone.
  • Bar-Italia, Maryland, cones reserving quite a few spaces.
  • Sub-Zero, Euclid, four spaces taken.
  • Restaurants on Laclede @ Euclid. Valet sign out, two cars parked on Laclede at narrow area.

I have no idea how many of the above actually posses a valid permit. If they do they will, at some point soon, be forced to comply with the new valet regulations and be limited to a still genereous valet zone. Those operating on the streets without permits will become more and more obvious to everyone as the will be the places lacking a designated zone.

In the past I’ve seen on-street valet service at a few other restaurants but none were observed last night. If you can think of additional locations where valets routinely operate let me know using the comments below. I will keep an eye on them and make sure they are all known to the Department of Streets – I’m just thinking they don’t have the staff to drive around at 9pm on a Saturday night.

Dante’s on Olive just west of Compton:


The actual club is up where the cars are parked. These three spaces plus about that many on the other side of their club are being reserved for those willing to shell out $5 to park at public parking spot after you are no longer required to feed the meter. Note the bike lane to the left of the image above.

Midwest Valet has placed their sign within the bike lane, a complete disregard for the safety of others. In more urban minded cities this sort of abuse of bike lanes would not be tolerated.

Harry’s on 22nd at Market Street:


Here they are using public parking spaces across the street from their restaurant to establish a valet lane. This place creates an interesting delima in that most customers will arrive off Market Street (behind me) and their parking lot used to park valeted cars off-street is up ahead. So here a valet zone directly in front of their location might present functional problems for both customers and the valet operator. That said, a reasonable solution needs to be worked out as they are taking up way too many public parking spaces but unless someone is visiting the FBI at night (behind fence at right) they literally are the only users of this street.

Dolce at Olive & Broadway (SE corner):


Once again Midwest Valet is up to old tricks. Here their sign is actually out of the way along Olive but that is only because Olive is two lanes between Broadway and 4th street to the east. My observations on several occassions has been they use Olive for customers to drop off or pick up their cars. It appears they take the cars to a parking garage and do not use the spaces coned off on Broadway.


Dolce is located at the far corner of the building on the right. They’ve coned off 10 spaces on the east side of Broadway and another 3 on the west side (visible at left above). The balance of the west side is no parking in front of the Metropolitan Square building.


This shot gives you a good overview of how empty the area looks, a false impression. Again, I think they park cars in a garage and simply cone off all these spaces so customers will be forced to use the valet service. If customers self-parked, how would they make any money? Again, these are public spaces and someone visiting a friend at a nearby hotel might wish to park there or perhaps going to see friends in the newly opened loft building seen in the background.

It is pretty clear these valet companies, especially Midwest Valet, will continue to abusively take spaces away from the general public until they are forced not to. I’m just glad the Department of Streets if finally taking charge of the problem.