[image-1]It’s no secret that parking in this city is the pits. Few know parking hell though quite like those who work in food and beverage. A lack of street parking and a limited transportation system — almost all CARTA routes stop at 9 p.m., remember — means headaches for those who work in restaurants on the peninsula. Like horror stories told around a campfire, chefs and servers talk in hushed tones about arriving at their cars — sometimes parked as far away as the Battery — after a late shift only to find piles of tickets, or even worse, a boot. But thanks to a tip, we’ve learned that the City of Charleston has been testing a new pilot program that might alleviate F&Ber’s parking woes.

As part of its Restaurant Employee Discount Parking pilot program, over the past six months the City of Charleston extended discounted parking to the employees of downtown restaurants that are members of the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association. The Restaurant Employee Discount Program allowed 41 participating restaurants’ employees access to six downtown parking garages for a flat fee of $5 within certain hours. Now the pilot is being opened to all downtown restaurants regardless of CGRA membership.

“We are currently still compiling and analyzing data with our parking management contractor ABM Parking Services,” explains Mark Aakhus, City of Charleston’s real estate manager. “This pilot program is intended to work towards developing a fair parking program for all restaurants downtown.”

The way the program works is each restaurant must apply to participate. If a restaurant is accepted into the pilot program, the discounted flat rate fee of $5 is offered to registered restaurant employees at the following garages:

Daytime (enter from 6 a.m., leave prior to 2 p.m.):
Charleston Place garage

Nighttime (enter after 3 p.m., leave prior to 3 a.m.):
Aquarium garage
East Bay Street garage
Queen Street garage

Daytime or Nighttime (enter from 6 a.m., leave prior to 3 a.m.):
Visitor Center garage
Majestic Square garage

All participating restaurant employees are asked to park on the roof of the garages. Barring that, they’re asked to park on the first available space working down from the roof. If a restaurant employee arrives prior to, or exits outside the hours listed, they must pay the regular garage fee. As with any garage, the flat fee offer is on a first come, first served basis.

Once the pilot is complete, Aakhus says the city will decide how best to move forward. If you’d like more information on The Restaurant Employee Discount Program or want to enroll, email ABMCharleston@abm.com

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