Benjamin Densler was having lunch one day recently at the Lunacy Black Market restaurant in downtown Atlanta when, he said, two separate parking officials put $25 tickets on his vehicle.
The officials said Densler's vehicle exceeded the two-hour limit on the parking meter, which he disputes.
"That was an expensive lunch," he said.
Densler's version of parking wars is symbolic of a longtime complaint for many: parking in downtown Atlanta can be a nightmare.
City Councilman Kwanza Hall, whose district includes downtown, has come with an idea he hopes will be part of the solution. He wants to extend parking to at least three hours on Mitchell Street and in the Fairlie-Poplar district.
"The (two-hour) limitations don't give people enough time (to shop or dine)," Hall said in an interview.
The City Council's transportation committee may take up the idea at its meeting Wednesday.
Tamarkus Drew, owner of Salon Incognito on Mitchell Street, said the councilman's idea would help. He's watched customers with their hair in rollers run to their cars to feed the meter before their two hours are up. The drama drives away customers, he said.
"A lot of people don't want to come back," Drew said.
Lunacy's general manager Cynthia Thomet agreed.
"It's a disincentive for people to come downtown," she said.
Hall said he got the idea during a recent meeting with Mitchell Street merchants. Many grumble Parkatlanta, the city-hired company that manages parking enforcement, is too aggressive ticketing parked cars. Jake "J.T." Agnew, who owns Excellent Shoe Care Center, believes the city wants small businesses out of the area. Atlanta's new mayor, Kasim Reed, has said he wants to make it easier for small businesses to thrive in the city. Reed spokesman Reese McCranie declined comment Thursday on Hall's idea.
Thomet wants the city to install more multi-space parking meters that accept bills and debit cards, noting some of the old metal meters require 16 quarters for two hours.
"Who carries 16 quarters?" she asked.
Parkatlanta has agreed to install 200 meters over the course of the seven-year contract it signed with the city in October. So will an extra hour really help? Thomet says yes.
"I think the three hours, with (the multi-space meters) would help a lot," she said.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.