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Over-the-Rhine workers say residential parking plan is hurting businesses, driving away customers

Posted at 1:06 AM, Jun 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-15 01:06:50-04

CINCINNATI — Vintage clothing store Rad OTR is full of retro band shirts and classic sneakers, but the rarest find of all? A parking spot on Main Street outside.

The Over-the-Rhine parking plan implemented in January reserves 500 of its total 1,300 spaces — some of which were once free — for paid-permit-holding residents, ensuring they have access to affordable parking near their own homes. However, local business owners said Friday the residents’ spots sit empty during the day: not occupied by native Rhiners, not open to those who visit the neighborhood for work or play.

Those people have to pay, spending sometimes as much as $10 for a space in nearby (or not-so-nearby) lots and garages.

“When they were free, they were full,” Rad OTR co-owner Billy Luther said. “It’s just space being unused for no reason other than to get money.”

RELATED: After one day of 'formal enforcement,' some calling to roll back new OTR parking plan

Rad OTR relied on those free spaces when it opened. So did many other local businesses without private lots.

Luther said when the parking plan was fully implemented, those businesses experienced a noticeable downturn in customer traffic. And just like customers don’t want to spend money in order to go shopping, he added, employees don’t want to pay to go to work.

“I know for a fact that other restaurants and bars in the area have lost employees that weren’t able to afford the parking or just didn’t care to pay it,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. They can go work at a mall, park for free and walk in.”

There’s no designated parking at all outside Indian fast-casual restaurant Injoy, general manager Ro Morsby said. There’s loading — sometimes. Aside from that, “it’s a free-for-all.” Some employees park blocks away, pay and come to work.

RELATED: City Council changes OTR parking permit rules after quick backlash from business community

“We had one customer a couple of weeks ago call in to place an order and then ask if we had parking,” Morsby said. “I said it was street parking and you kind of had to figure your own way to get here, and he didn’t come to order his food because of that.”

Both Luther and Morsby said they believed the parking plan could be adjusted to better accommodate visitors.

Luther suggested adding to the 200 existing flex spaces, which are only reserved for residential permit holders at nighttime. Morsby hopes they can talk to City Council about their idea face-to-face.

“We could get together with city council leaders and talk about specific places for businesses,” they said. “One or two spots on a street (could) have some residential spots and maybe one spot that is a 30-minute metered parking for anyone to just come and park for free.”