Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mass Ave Merchants Knock City For "No Parking Order" For Gay Pride Parade

Bill Brooks, editor of the Urban Times, describes what he considered a horrifying scene unfold on Mass Ave on the Friday before Indy Pride's Gay Pride Parade on Saturday when city workers bagged parking meters up and down the avenue with "No Parking" orders:

This particular Friday began as usual along Mass Ave. The morning coffee crowd. A few walkers and bicyclists. Motorists coming and going.

Suddenly, there were red bags everywhere. On every parking meter. Like cicadas. Like the measles. There couldn't have been any more of them if city police had put a red bag over the head of every panhandler.

Suddenly, there was no place to park. From Vermont Street to the East End, Mass Ave parking meters had been hooded like a condemned man going to the gallows. "No Paking, Tow-Away Zone," the bags menacingly motorists.

Merchants were confused as they came to realize what had happened: City police had "bagged" the meters to accommodate Saturday morning's annual Gay Pride Parade, which a full day later wuld form on the East End, start at College Avenue and proceed down Mass Ave to Vermont Street, where it would turn west toward University Park. But the method had changed: City police had decided to use the red bags instead of the cardboard placards which would have read, "No parking Saturday."
Actually, what Brooks described here is no different than what happens on numerous occasions throughout the downtown area year-round. As a downtown dweller, I've come to realize the city always bags the meters at least 24 hours before the event. Having figured out how it works, I take full advantage of the free parking. Even though the meters are bagged in advance, the city won't have your car towed until the day of the event. At least one Mass Ave business owner was smart enough to figure this out. Brooks reports that, while other merchants complained of lost business, Tracy Robertson of the Mass Ave pub reported she suffered no loss of sales. "That's because she stood outside and waved folks into the spaces herself," Brooks writes.

As someone who walks on Mass Ave every day on my morning commute to work, I have a question for some of these Mass Ave merchants. If you're so concerned about parking for your customers, why do you allow your employees to park on Mass Ave in front of your business and feed the meters all day? Ironically, some of the gay business owners on the Ave were yelling the loudest. "As a small business owner, I personally feel helpless in matters like this," said Rob Hoaglin of Hoaglin's To Go. "If we treated our customers as if they had no recourse when we made a mistake, we would be out of business," Hoaglin added. The former head of Indiana Equality weighed in with her own criticism. "Kathy Sarris of Aesop's Tables said her Friday business was down 50 percent, while Saturday's lunch business was off 65 percent--on a day when it is normally boosted by the Gay Pride Parade." "But she said the debacle was an even bigger problem for her employees who were either sent home or lacked for tipping customers." "To me it showed a total disregard for those who make a living on the Avenue," Sarris said.

Others in the Indiana GLBT community might offer their own ideas why Sarris' business was off on Gay Pride weekend, but I know from personal observation that Hoaglin's had a booming business on the morning of the parade. So did the Starbucks down the street. Tracy Robertson opened her Mass Ave pub early to take advantage of the large crowds gathered out front of her business to watch the parade. She told me she had a busier-than-normal Saturday lunch crowd immediately following the parade. And the Metro did a brisk business with its special brunch offer for parade goers. On the other end, the Old Pointe didn't even bother to open its doors until the parade was concluding despite the large crowds gathered at its vantage point where the parade converged with Vermont Street.

I don't disagree with the merchants that the city should have used the cardboard placards instead of the "No Parking" bags, but this has been a problem elsewhere as well. I happened to witness the exchange between city police and the business owner of the Chatterbox over the parking dispute on that Friday during my lunch break. One of the business owners tagged the bags with notes saying it was okay to park in the spaces on Friday, but city police viewed this as defacing city property. The police ripped down all of the tags posted by the merchant. During the exchange with the Chatterbox owner, the city police officer warned that anyone caught doing it again would be arrested. The Chatterbox owner complained to the officer that he obviously didn't understand business. As I recall, the Chatterbox was closed during the Gay Pride Parade.

Rather than complain about the "No Parking" bags, the Mass Ave business owners would spend their time more productively by sitting down and trying to figure out how to take advantage of the more than 30,000 people who converge on the downtown area for the Pride celebration. Many of the visitors are from out-of-town and offer a source of a lot of potential new revenues for these merchants during the weekend. The dirty truth is that more than a few of these business owners don't welcome the Parade despite promoting itself as "45 degrees from the ordinary." That's what needs to change more than the way the city administers its "No Parking" policy for special events.


Anonymous said...

When I stopped by your booth at Pride, Gary, I'd just walked from Mass Ave. I parked right in front of Aesop's Tables since the meters weren't hooded anymore (the parade was over). That was, what, about 1 or 2pm? A little late for lunch, but not that far...

Gary R. Welsh said...

Probably about 2:00. I think merchants who aren't doing anything to capitalize on the festivities shouldn't be complaining about the parking situation.

Anonymous said...

Thank the new Marion County Sheriffs office for that. Eeerrr I mean the new IMPD. I am an officer an have seen the new command staff from MCSD mess up every traffic plan and transit pattern we have used in the past. They will not listen to any former IPD personnel and they simply will not look at written plans we have had in place for years. They have already caused problems for both the 5o00 and Formula 1. They want to do it their way to show they are now in charge.

Anonymous said...

If the Aesop's wait staff mirrors their manager's surly attitude, well, you get the picture. The food is consistently mediocre, but affordable.

Hoaglin's, on the other hand, has interesting menu, isn't cheap, and excellent service.

As for parking...I think the bagging goes into effect in advance so that the IMPD isn't towing cars at noon on parade day. Cause many folks park there at 4-6 p.m., and leave their cars overnight.

Surely the merchants can figure out some alternatives. Whining is not allowed. Esppecially by those you cited here.

It's difficult to muster sympathy.

Anonymous said...

although annoying, the gravity of the downtown "red bags" too far ahead is far less because most of downtown's parking spots are in garages. On Mass Ave. the street is the main source of parking.

David C Roach said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Please delete roach's reply. You'll understand why if you visit the link he posted.