By Jane Smith
City Commissioners gave downtown restaurant owners who offer valet parking a six-month reprieve on Oct. 1, allowing the valet stands to remain on Atlantic Avenue.
They want to see the traffic flow improve on Atlantic Avenue between Swinton Avenue and Federal Highway.
Todd Herbst, whose Big Time Restaurant Group just opened Elisabetta’s Ristorante, said, “Without the valets, we would never make it.”
Sophia Theodore, who owns Taverna Opa with her husband, said her restaurant needs the valet in front as “a convenience factor. Moving it will hurt my business a lot.”
Staff had recommended moving valet stands off Atlantic Avenue, west of the Intracoastal Waterway, to allow public safety vehicles to get into the downtown, ease congestion, improve the pedestrian experience and allow cafe patrons to enjoy their meals.
Deputy Vice Mayor Bill Bathurst said, “We want to be a safe town, but we also are a hospitality town. We need to carefully consider anything that breaks the system.”
Commissioners asked staff to come up with a list to improve traffic flow. Those items would include finding a side-street location for drop-offs and pick-ups of shared-ride services and the free ride service the city recently started. Also, the commission wants to stop valets from allowing drivers of upscale cars to park all night in a valet space. Restaurants will pay the city $168 per month for each space, up from $165. Valets must make the operation open to all, although each restaurant can offer discounts or free parking. The maximum valets can charge is $10 for four hours west of the Intracoastal and two hours east of the waterway. Caffe Luna Rosa, east of the Intracoastal Waterway, will be able to keep its seven spaces on the barrier island.