By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN – Those who visit local businesses now have another option when it comes to parking.
Responding to declining sales attributed to high parking fees, a group of local businesses is offering free valet parking on a trial basis beginning Dec. 15 from 5 p.m. Thursdays through 2 a.m. Sundays until March.
The free parking will be offered at 10 eateries, including Crave Lounge and The Post Bar, through March 2012.
Councilors approved the measure during their regular council meeting Dec. 12.
“The goal of this is the city will offer paces in four different lots,” City Council President Tom Tafelski said. “The business owners will pay for a valet company, who will then indemnify the city.”
According to a press release, valet drop-off points will be available at four locations: West Village Drive between Monroe and Military and north of Michigan Avenue between Monroe Street and Mason Street. To promote the new measure, bars and restaurants offered drink and appetizer deals Dec. 15.
Initially, 25 spaces will be available in four lots. Businesses will pay about $40 per space, which will net about $4,000 per month for the city. If the system succeeds, the hours could be extended when the program is reviewed by the Council March 10. The councilors amended the decision to include up to 40 percent of available downtown parking spaces contingent on the system’s success.
West Dearborn Downtown Development Association Chairman William White took a wait-and-see approach to the measure’s future.
“It’s worth a try,” he said. “Part of our objective is to bring businesses to the district, to promote the district. Hopefully it will be a great success.”
City Councilman Brain O’Donnell applauded the move as a sign of businesses working together. He said he was skeptical of the practice in the beginning stages, but became more supportive of it as he learned more.
In the release, Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said new customers who don’t want to pay to park are welcome to test the new service.
“We know there are great restaurants and bars in west Dearborn,” he said. “We invite anyone who hasn’t been there lately, or who hasn’t wanted to pay for parking, to come back and experience a terrific meal or a memorable night out.”
Crave Lounge Catering Director Khalil Ramadan said offereing free valet parking offers conveneince for the eateries’ customers, particularly in the winter months. He added that free valet parking sets the city apart from others of its size.
“We’re the first city (in the area) to implement (free valet parking),” he said. “If you go to Royal Oak, Birmingham or Ann Arbor … everything’s a charge. Come to Dearborn, we’ll pay for your parking.”
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected])