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PORTLAND — Reacting to concerns from businesses and residents, the city Thursday morning confirmed that it would revert back to a 10 p.m. start time for parking bans.
City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the city will still have the option to call a 6 p.m. start time in the case of a severe snow storm or significant snow build-up.
The decision came a week after the first parking ban of the season left some downtown restaurants and bars frustrated with the effect the 6 p.m. start time had on business.
Downtown streets were empty of parked vehicles by about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, the result of a city-wide parking ban called in anticipation of snowy conditions.
Although ultimately the city did not enforce the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. parking ban, leaving the few cars that were parked on city streets alone, some downtown bars and restaurants felt the impact nonetheless, on an evening that turned out to be rainy rather than snowy.
“We understand this is a big change for people,” City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said earlier this week. “We may make some modifications.”
Until this year, city-wide snow bans did not take effect until 10 p.m. The city changed the start time to 6 p.m. to give crews more time to clear the streets, while downtown “Yellow Zone” bans still have a 10 p.m. start time.
Bill Umbel, an owner of Empire Dine and Dance at 575 Congress St., said his bar and restaurant usually bring in between $1,000 and $1,500 on a Wednesday night.
“We did $200 Wednesday night,” Umbel said. “It definitely killed my business for the night.”
Umbel said while he understands the need for parking bans during the winter, the city should have re-evaluated weather conditions and called off last week’s ban.
“It started raining at 2 p.m.,” he said. And while the city did not enforce the ban, it sent out bulletins reminding people about the ban until nearly 10 p.m.
A bigger issue is the change in start times for bans in the downtown district. A 10 p.m. start allows people to park on the street during dinner time, buy if there’s a city-wide ban, the start downtown gets moved up to 6 p.m.
“There are a lot of restaurants and bars downtown,” Umbel said. “Make it at 10.”
Jan Beitzer, executive director for Portland Downtown District, said many restaurants are unhappy with the new 6 p.m. ban and she passed that information along to city Public Services Director Mike Bobinsky.
Clint Gordon, the general manager of Margarita’s on Brown Street, said that while his business doesn’t depend on on-street parking as much as some others in town, it obviously feels the effect of parking bans.
“We tend to be a first stop for people walking to the Old Port,” said Gordon. “Still, we’d much rather see the ban start later.”
Clegg said Monday the city was aware of the effect snow bans have on businesses, and was reviewing the parking ban policy. She also pointed out that the city had eight city-wide bans last winter.
The city has a snow ban hot line, 879-0300, which the public can call for information on parking bans. To sign up for e-mail notifications or for information on where to park during a ban, go to portlandmaine.gov.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]
Updated Dec. 17 at 9:40 a.m.