New parking system causing big problems for small business

Published: Saturday, Oct. 6 2012 3:13 p.m. MDT

Genann Howard and Barbara Gilbert leave Mini's Gourmet Cupcakes on 800 South in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. Leslie Fiet, the owner of Mini's, believes the new parking system deters customers from wanting to spend time in her shop.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Leslie Fiet is like a lot of local entrepreneurs, trying hard to make a living running her two small specialty cupcake shops.

Though she has been able to make a go of it for the past six years — even during the economic recession — a recent change by Salt Lake City has put even more pressure on her bottom line.

A few months ago, the city began replacing the hundreds of parking meters along streets throughout the downtown area with metered stalls where drivers pay at nearby kiosks with currency or credit card. While most of those stalls are located in the central business district, some are located as far south as 900 South, particularly on State Street.

But much to Fiet's chagrin, there are a few metered spots directly in front of her business, Mini's Cupcakes, 14 E. 800 South. The surrounding area is virtually meter-free — instead having signs indicating two-hour free parking.

Since the new system has been in place, it has created some serious problems for her shop.

"When it was the (coin) meters, people would pay a nickel or a dime and come in. It was no big deal," Fiet explained.

She said the installation of the pay station kiosks on either end of the block have really had a negative impact on her business, costing her about 10 percent to 15 percent in walk-in revenue.

Fiet said she contacted the city and asked if the kiosks could be installed in a more convenient location for her customers, but her queries went unanswered.

"What happens is people will come in but get all paranoid that they will get a ticket," she said. "You can't talk to people because they are so concerned about getting a ticket. They just want to hurry and get out."

For six years, hers was the only business on the block until a frame-making business and a glass business relocated next door, Fiet said.

Since the new parking system has been installed, she said the number of customers who are willing pay for parking has dwindled significantly. Additionally, having free two-hour parking right across the street creates a possible hazard for potential jaywalkers who want to avoid having to pay to park.

Fiet said she hopes that the city will reconsider and make the area in front of her shop two-hour free parking like all of the other surrounding streets.

"Either (allow) free parking or move the pay stations (closer) to our building," she said.

Salt Lake City spokesman Art Raymond said the notion of changing the parking situation in that area or others like it is under review. Parking engineers will use data from the new kiosks to monitor usage and determine if the metered stalls should be replaced some time in the future with time limited free parking, such as what exists across the street on 800 South, he said.

Travis Tanner, who owns Tanner Framing next door to Mini's, said the two-hour limit parking enforcement would be a good compromise to create a less stressful environment for customers.

"That, I would like to see," Tanner said. "That would be a fair solution."

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com Twitter: JasenLee1

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