Would the fear of getting a parking ticket while visiting a favorite store or restaurant stop you from going there? That’s what business owners in Storrs Center say is happening.
“When you work real hard and you do everything right and (customers) leave and tell you, ‘It was great we can’t wait to come back,’ and then they come back in 5 minutes and say, ‘We’re never coming back,’ it’s pretty disheartening,” said Steve Smith, co-owner of the Dog Lane Café in Storrs Center.
But Steve Smith and his co-owner Brian Jessurun said that has happened many times and a $30 parking ticket is to blame.
The extremely strict enforcement of street parking in downtown Storrs makes it tough for Storrs Center business to do business, according to Smith.
“I’ve spoken to the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, I’ve spoken to the mayor, I’ve spoken to the town manager, and every time I think, ‘well maybe we’re getting somewhere,’ I drive in here and I see somebody in a blue shirt writing a ticket on a Sunday and I get frustrated,” Smith said.
He’s been open for over six years and thinks LAZ Parking, a company that enforces parking on behalf of the town of Mansfield, needs to ease off, especially during non-peak hours or times of the year when students aren’t in school.
Someone can grab a coffee, make a run to the nearby CVS and slightly miss the timeslot back to the car and face a fine.
It’s hurting business, Jessurun said. And businesses in Storrs Center pay taxes and contribute to the community and neighboring University of Connecticut.
“On weekends there’ll be no cars and they’re out there ticketing like crazy. Last Sunday I got a ticket,” said Kim Cash, who owns Bliss.
The boutique owner said she’s losing customers — especially elderly ones who don’t want to walk from the garage or the one parking lot for Storrs Center.
“On a Wednesday, maybe 50 to 100 (customers), that’s a realistic number. And we’ve just watched it drop, drop, drop,” Cash said.
She has another store in nearby Willimantic and said customers will just go there because there’s a better parking situation. Cash said she’s even had moms and daughters who are looking at prom dresses leave the store because they were afraid of getting a ticket.
Since 2016, there has been 30 minute and one hour street parking in the area of Storrs Center, according to the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, a non-profit created by the town and UConn to foster continued development, management and promotion of Downtown Storrs.
There is also the Dog Lane Lot, a free parking lot limited to two hours, and a parking garage where the first two hours are free and $1 per hour afterward.
On its website, the Partnership writes, “There has been no direction to LAZ to enforce parking more strictly. In fact, the Partnership has asked LAZ to be lenient during times when school is not in session…”
Mansfield Downtown Partnership Executive Director Cynthia van Zelm said the Partnership speaks with the businesses in Storrs Center and is always looking at ways to enhance and better the experience in downtown Storrs.
NBC Connecticut called and emailed LAZ Parking. They referred us to the “Parking in Downtown Storrs” post on the Mansfield Downtown Partnership website.
“I’ve been ticketed literally more times than I can count,” said UConn Junior Reilee Barron.
She uses Select Physical Therapy in Storrs Center.
“The parking on the street is only 30 minutes so I have to usually rush through my appointment or leave and move my car,” Barron said.