LEXINGTON, Ky. — In Lexington, there’s a growing pushback against an increase in a price hike at the city’s parking meters in downtown.
Last month, LEXPARK increased its parking fees at meters and the enforcement of meter times. General manager of Zim’s Cafe, Josef Ferguson, said he has already noticed a difference.
“I’ve noticed a decrease in the number of people we have in at night,” Ferguson said.
To park at a meter, it now costs $2.00 for every hour and is enforced from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Previously, Saturdays were a free parking day.
Ferguson said downtown has been as lively as ever, but this is just another deterrent from people coming out.
It will mostly hurt restaurants and bars, Ferguson added, as most people come downtown to eat, drink or unwind. He said the timing couldn’t be worse as businesses have just emerged from the pandemic and related shutdowns.
“There are a lot of restaurants that aren’t here after the pandemic that were here two years ago,” Ferguson said. “It’s a one-two punch, and the fact it was sprung on downtown businesses with so little notice is just insult to injury.”
A recent resolution in the Kentucky Senate is encouraging LEXPARK to lower its parking meter fees and enforcement hours. Downtown business owners say the fewer people pay at the meter, the less likely they are to go elsewhere for entertainment.
“You’ve got Nicholasville Road, you’ve got Hamburg, all these little pubs that are spread out and people are going to choose to go there instead of down here; especially when you think about if you even want to go to dinner… That’s four dollars for two hours of parking now,” said Sylvia Gross, operator at Sam’s HotDog Stand.
Gross said that’s four more dollars for people to put toward a server’s tip or can go toward an extra beer elsewhere. She said even lunchtime has become less busy.
“We see just during the day, parking spots are empty, far emptier than just three months ago,” Gross said.
The resolution introduced by Kentucky Senate floor majority leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) states the Senate realizes LEXPARK’s revenues are still below pre-pandemic levels and aren’t helped by rising costs, but the agency should pay its bills with as little fiscal impact to visitors and citizens as possible.
“If this had been something they announced and debated months ago, there might’ve been an opportunity for restaurant owners and managers to voice their concerns,” Ferguson said.
The resolution was approved by the Kentucky Senate, and Senator Thayer hopes to see some action from LEXPARK. If not, he stated on the floor last Thursday he’s working on a bill that would regulate quasi-governmental agencies.
Senator Thayer sent Spectrum News 1 a statement Monday that reads in part:
“Local business owners reached out to me expressing their disappointment in LEXPARK and felt it was important. The Senate and I share our disappointment, too. Raising fees and extending hours with such a small amount of public input and notice to the public was unacceptable.”
We reached out to LEXPARK about Senator Thayer’s resolution but did not receive a statement in time for publishing.