Downtown business owner says high cost of parking is costing them customers

There have been more concerns and questions about downtown parking recently including the cost of private parking lots and the lack of parking in general.

Over the past few days, News4JAX has been talking with people who have received outrageous parking bills of more than a hundred dollars for just a few hours of parking. After our reporting, some of those charges have been refunded.

RELATED: Scrutinized private parking company responds to high overage charges, says downtown parking actually pretty cheap

However, one downtown business owner said the high parking cost downtown is actually costing them business.

One of the private parking lots that has been scrutinized is located at Ocean and Forysth Streets. It’s managed by Elite Parking. There is no parking attendant and to park, customers must either text payment information or use a kiosk to pay. When there is a problem, like going over the time limit or a credit card that doesn’t work, people can end up paying as much as $100 more.

Freddy Ghobad’s family owns the Casa Dora Italian restaurant across the street from one of the lots, down the street from the Florida Theatre.

He said his customers are constantly complaining about the unmanned and expensive parking.

“It does not bode well because people are going to be confused,” Ghobad said. “Why are they being charged so much? They come here, they’re already confused about downtown a little bit, and when something like that happens, they don’t want to come back.”

Several people who were downtown on Wednesday said they don’t have a choice.

“There’s not enough parking and all the spots that you go to, you’re either having to pay an exorbitant amount of money, or you get a ticket,” Kevin Barber said.

One of the main concerns is the signage at private lots.

For example, the lot at Monroe and Forsyth Street says public parking so of course anybody is going to go there that’s looking for a parking place. The difference is yes, it is public parking, but it’s a private lot so they can charge whatever they want.

And it’s that sign that confused Matt Neely who usually gets a break parking because of his handicapped sticker.

He reached out to News4JAX and the company managing the lots to complain about his large bill. Neely said he went downtown earlier this month for the Veteran’s Day Parade and tried to pay at the lot on Forsyth Street but there was a problem.

“The digital attendant, you know, where you buy the parking wasn’t working. And there was a passing city worker. And so we, you know, said ‘Hey, we’re doing something wrong.’ He said, ‘Oh, it’s free on Saturday.’ So we’re like, ‘OK,’” Neely said.

But it wasn’t free and it was not a city-owned lot. Neely recently got a notice in the mail that he owed $108.

News4JAX relayed his story to the company that oversees the lot, Elite Parking and it took care of Neely’s bill this time, but they do emphasize there is no free parking at any time in the lots the company oversees.

“I definitely think it’s because I reached out,” Neely said. “How many other people are being charged for this, you know? Like, it’s just, it’s crazy.”

The best advice is to take notice when parking downtown. City lots and garages are cheaper but the prices can jump up if you stay a long time. And parking on the street during the day, you can end up with one of these parking tickets, which can add up as well.

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