Paid Parking Stifles Dickson Street Restaurants

by Talk Business & Politics ([email protected]) 49 views 

Some Fayetteville restaurateurs say they’ve been robbed by a no-armed bandit.

Paid parking through the city’s new electronic kiosks erected around the Dickson Street entertainment area has discouraged the lunch crowds that have helped buoy business, they said. 

It’s too early for direct comparisons from previous years – paid parking began August 16 and tax collections are only available through July – but several owners report daily dips in business of 10 to 25 percent, with some days as low as 40 percent.

“We used to do our day’s business at lunch, and whatever we did through the afternoon and evening was just icing on the cake,” said Travis Feltner, co-owner of Feltner Brothers. “Now it’s slow at lunch, and we’re sitting there crossing our fingers hoping for a busy dinner to get back to where we should have been.”

According to hotel-motel-restaurant taxes collected by Fayetteville’s Advertising & Promotion Commission, the 21 restaurants doing business in the Dickson Street entertainment district had combined total revenue of $14.59 million in 2009, up slightly from 2008. The A&P’s year runs from Dec. 1 through Nov. 30.

For the eight months of December 2009 through July 2010, the eateries have served up a combined $9.94 million in revenue. That’s about 68 percent of the previous year’s total, which means they were collectively on track to do about the same as 2009 before parking became an issue.

The 21 restaurants’ 2009 revenue translates to $291,852 in taxes collected for the city. HMR tax is 2 percent; half goes to the A&P Commission and half to the parks department.


Spare Change

On Sept. 21 the Fayetteville City Council voted unanimously to bump daily start time for paid parking from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. following an outcry from business owners.

Some city officials were not in favor of an immediate change, preferring to wait until a previously agreed upon 90-day review could be conducted using more recent HMR numbers.

Still, Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he could see the impact, and backed business owners’ request. Even so, Jordan strongly supports Fayetteville’s new, if unpopular, program.

The cost to park in one of the 786 public spaces will be 50 cents per hour between 2-5 p.m., and $1 per hour between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. (On weekends, $1 rates start at 6 p.m.) Early revenue estimates (not including citations) for 12 months total $895,884. That’s based on the program’s first five weeks. Through Sept. 26, the city had collected $108,935 in parking revenue, not including citations.

Each gizmo cost about $18,000. Purchase and installation costs totaled about $890,000, which came from the city’s emergency fund.

By moving the paid parking start time to 2 p.m., Fayetteville projects a 9.7 percent revenue decline.

“The primary objective was to accumulate enough funds to build a parking deck for the downtown district,” said Paul Becker, Fayetteville’s finance director. “There’s no way we’re going to be able to afford a parking deck in the foreseeable future unless there’s some type of revenue generated to do that.”


Restaurant Revenue

Julie Sill, co-owner of Common Grounds Gourmet Espresso Bar and Hog Haus Brewing Company, said she appreciates the city council’s actions, but hopes for more changes – like bringing back free parking to Dickson Street. As things stand, Sill said customers are paying 50 cents to grab to-go orders. 

Sill believes a lack of education is the biggest problem. “No one has come in and said, ‘I don’t want to pay this amount of money.’ Several people have walked in and said, ‘It wouldn’t take my money’ or ‘It didn’t give change.'”

Before the machines came online, Sill was a big proponent of paid parking, and supports the idea of a parking deck. But she said she believes Dickson Street businesses will shutter “if we continue on the financial pattern we’re on today.”

Jim Huson, owner of Doe’s Eat Place, has a different experience. Partly by focusing on the dinner crowd, his business has avoided the losses other Dickson Street eateries are experiencing.

Still, customers are being affected. Huson believes a lack of distinctive signage has hurt. He also thinks paid parking on Dickson Street should take a hike.

Having just opened Sept. 11, Tim Farrell reports his Farrell’s Lounge, Bar & Grill is doing good business. But lunch isn’t as busy as he predicted. Plus, foot traffic has dried up.

Although Farrell wonders if the city hasn’t jumped into the deep end with its downtown and residential parking programs, he spots the irony in regulars boycotting the new regulations, since doing so means hurting local business owners.

“I look at the positive in everything,” he said. “I think in time people will get used to it. Bottom line, Dickson Street is the place to be. It’s a magical street.”