The city of Fayetteville is reducing its enforcement hours for paid parking during the week in the downtown district.
Effective May 2, the city said in a news release, paid parking will be from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Parking will remain free on Saturdays and Sundays. However, those may be subject to special event rates.
Currently, enforcement hours for paid parking downtown are 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Parking rates will remain the same.
Reaction to the change from downtown merchants and restauranteurs was mixed on Tuesday.
“Obviously, every hour helps,” said 45-year-old Michael Laurenceau, one of the owners of Pierro’s Italian Bistro on Hay Street. “I personally think it should be 5 (p.m.). Our dinner rush starts at 6 o'clock. The majority are coming before 7 o’clock and some after 7 o’clock.
“It helps the after-dinner rush,” he said of customers who will come in after the 7 p.m. cutoff for downtown parking.
Laurenceau said paid parking has had an impact on people who make downtown a destination during the day.
“They can go anywhere else for free,” he said. “I think 5 o’clock should be treated like the weekends. Courthouse business ends at 5 o’clock. There’s a reason not to charge on the weekends. So why not end at 5 o’clock?”
He said Pierro’s lost some regulars a few years ago because they didn’t want to start paying to park. “Some people don’t like change,” Laurenceau said.
He said his staff has to pay for parking when they come to work, which can play into a potential employee’s decision to work where parking is free rather than downtown.
The Fayetteville City Council approved the new paid parking hours during its regular meeting Monday. That followed a lengthy discussion on the issue during an April 4 work session.
The city has 390 parking spots along Hay Street and its adjacent city streets.
Parking signs will be updated to reflect the change, the city said in the release.
Bruce Cokley, 60, and a part owner of the Agora restaurant on Person Street, said a change in paid parking hours is always important because the business remains open until 10 p.m.
“Because we’re on this end of the street that tends to close early,” said Cokley, who added that foot traffic tends to slow down on Person in the evenings.
“It always affects us because all our clients are worried about their parking arrangements before they come here,” he said. “In other cities, they don’t pay after hours so visitors can come to those downtown areas.”
He said the arrival of spring, warmer nights and the opening of the season for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers at downtown’s Segra Stadium will all be drawing more people to the district.
Jesica Renken is 23 and an assistant manager of The Sweet Palette, which operates next to the Market House circle at Person and Green streets. She said she doesn’t think the new paid parking hours will have an impact on the business.
“We have a 20-minute parking on Person Street. Plus, we close at 6 p.m.,” she said.
Renken preferred “the old parking system” when motorists had more options for free parking along the downtown streets.
“I can see how some places are affected negatively,” she said. “Our patrons don’t feel positively about the city’s parking meters.”
At Gaston Brewing Co. on Hay Street, general manager Patrick Foody said the new hours “can’t be more negative than it was at 9 o’clock. It shouldn’t be 7 o’clock; it should be 5 o’clock. They want to bring business downtown, but they discourage them from coming.”
That, he said, was due to the downtown parking rates.
The city said parking rates will remain at $1 per hour for on-street spots and a $5 max during the day for off-street spots.
The cost to park on the Franklin Street and Hay Street parking decks is $1 an hour with a daily max of $5. The first hour is free in the Franklin Street parking deck, the city said.
The parking rate for special events – which are indicated by posted signs – also stays at $5.
The Sip Room opened downtown about a month ago. Owner Santina Thomas, 40, said she doesn’t think the new parking hours will have an impact on her establishment.
“I think if people want to patronize your business,” she said, “they’re going to come. I don’t think anything with parking and cost will affect us. Downtown is definitely a great place to be.
“Downtown,” Thomas added, “is where everybody wants to be.”
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.