City's new valet-parking taxes irk some restaurateurs

Posted: August 03, 2011

Valet parking at restaurants and hotels is considered a sign of exclusivity.

But Garth Weldon, owner of the Prime Rib steak house in the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel, says, "This is ridiculous."

Weldon's is one of more than four dozen businesses now receiving their annual bills from the Philadelphia Parking Authority for valet zones.

The fee in Center City, University City, and along Delaware Avenue, which in many cases last year was $250 per 20 feet of curb space, is now $2,500 - 10 times as much.

Rather than pay $7,500 a year for three spaces, Weldon has relinquished his zone, on Locust Street west of 17th.

Restaurateur Jose Garces elected to drop the two valet spaces at Distrito, his Mexican restaurant at 40th and Chestnut Streets. Melissa Scully, Garces' director of operations, said it was not worth the extra $4,500. Chifa and Amada still offer valet parking.

The ordinance, sponsored by Councilman James Kenney and signed April 13 by Mayor Nutter, got little publicity. It was read along with other bills on the parking tax and rules requiring valet-parking companies to provide proof of legal parking to patrons.

"The original fee did not come close to meeting the amount needed for enforcement," said Kenney aide Sarah Sachdev, adding that enforcement was transferred to the Parking Authority.

Besides the stricter enforcement, supporters argued, the steeper levy would raise an additional $100,000 for the city treasury - an amount that Allan Domb, whose Barclay building has a valet zone, calls a "drop in the bucket."

"If you're trying to keep the suburbanites away from Center City, this is one way to do it," said Domb.

Stephen Starr - whose restaurants control or share 17 spaces totaling $42,500, according to city records - chalked it up to "the cost of doing business in this city." He said he would pay.

It's not yet known if the relinquished valet spaces will become loading zones (which do not generate revenue) or will become metered spaces (potentially delighting motorists irked by exclusionary valet zones).

During hearings, no one raised the possibility that some businesses would opt out rather than pay.

"They'll go from some revenue to zero revenue," Weldon said.

The city gets the annual fee. Restaurants and hotels contract with valet companies, which in many cases keep all the fees that patrons pay for parking. Some agreements call for a minimum number of cars to be parked, and restaurateurs must pay the valet companies for slower nights.

There are 52 zones in Center City, University City, and along Delaware Avenue. Nine zones located elsewhere in the city, including Manayunk and South Philadelphia, formerly cost $150, plus $75 a year for renewal, but are now priced at $625 for 20 feet.

Contact staff writer Michael Klein


comments powered by Disqus