Business owners hope to hit the brakes on Lexington’s new parking policy

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Lexington’s new parking policy has been in effect since the beginning of the year, but business owner frustration has only escalated in the past few weeks.

“It’s so frustrating because restaurants are struggling anyway at the moment. We’ve just come out of a pandemic and we hear everyone talking about inflation,” said Sylvia Gross, a downtown worker.

Customers now have to pay for parking Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm – that’s an extra day and hours.

According to Gross, she would work elsewhere in Lexington if her boss didn’t pay for downtown employee parking out of his own pocket.

In addition to the increase in prices, business owners and employees say the park changes are confusing.

“Some spots are $2 an hour, some are 75 cents, you just don’t know, it’s vague and I think it’s meant to be vague,” Gross said.

According to LexPark, the changes were necessary to comply with a new parking sales tax and to improve parking garages while encouraging parking sales.

Over the next six weeks, LexPark will write alerts until drivers better understand the changes.

“We’ve been through changes before, and downtown has weathered those changes,” said LexPark CEO Gary Means. “We’re confident that we’re not going to bring anything downtown that downtown can’t handle, that downtown can’t pull through, and really thrive on that.”

For Lussi Brown Coffee Bar owner Sarah Brown, the problems aren’t with the change, but with preparing for those changes.

“It was a change that affects everyone and no one was notified or asked for an opinion,” Brown said.

Around the corner, Sidebar Grill owner Lisa Cox has spotted drivers confused by the parking changes. Even their own employees feed the parking meters throughout the day to keep their vehicles parked nearby.

“It’s just really inconvenient, and when it comes time to hire again, I’m going to have a lot of trouble finding people to drive…they’re going to go somewhere that they won’t have to pay.”

A longtime Limestone Street resident, Cox worries that the increasing hassles of downtown parking will turn away guests altogether and change the culture of downtown Lexington.

“When you oust all the mom and pop places, there’s no character left,” Cox said.

“It’s hard to compete with places like Hamburg or the Summit where parking is free and you can stay as long as you want,” Brown reiterated.

Faced with business owners’ concerns about parking, LexPark is collecting data and determining if they can relax the new rules.

“To get it right, we all agreed that we can take the raise during the day, it’s the five to nine that’s really going to be the nail in the coffin for some of these places,” Cox said.

On a curb that was once bumper-to-bumper, business owners beg for a seat at the table as parking lot chatter continues.

“That’s a much bigger picture than a few business owners worried about parking,” Brown said. “This will impact the entire area surrounding downtown Lexington.”

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