RACINE — Starting today, the City of Racine will once again require people to pay for parking at metered spaces throughout the city.
However, in a bit of good news for restaurants and bars challenged by the widespread economic fallout of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the city will be leaving select bagged meters in place as 15-minute loading zones to encourage continuation of takeout and curbside pickup of food orders for restaurant patrons who want to continue having that option available.
In March, city parking meters in front of bars and restaurants providing take-out and curbside pickup service for patrons during COVID-19 pandemic bans on dine-in service were bagged and turned into 15-minute loading zones to provide customers with quick and easy access to pick up their food orders.
Concurrently, all other parking meter payments in the city were halted. While parking was free, the metered spots were limited to 2-hour parking during regular metered hours. Starting today, people will once again be required to pay for parking at metered spaces.
“As people begin to go back into our shops and restaurants, we need turnover at parking spaces and having to plug a meter helps encourage that,” said Racine Mayor Cory Mason. “However, not everyone is ready to go back into restaurants for meals but want to support their favorite places by continuing to utilize takeout or curbside pickup. Having the bagged meters for quick access for pick-up is a great option for community members who are being understandably cautious as we open things up.”
Under provisions of the city’s Forward Racine reopening plan, city restaurants beginning May 26 were allowed to resume dine-in service at 50% capacity, continuing heavy reliance by restaurateurs on their carryout, curbside pickup and online delivery services.
Bagged meters appreciated
Among those applauding the city’s move to keep select bagged meters in place for city restaurants and bars offering takeout and curbside pickup services is Ida Alia, co-owner with Gemma Wells and Anna DeBartolo of Salute Italian Restaurant, 314 Main St.
“That is wonderful to have it in front, the two bags for each restaurant,” Alia said of the news, noting the only restaurant service currently being offered at Salute is pickup. “People don’t want to go around looking for a parking place or worry about the meter.
“If they keep on doing that (maintaining bagged meters at restaurants) that would be the best — for us and the other restaurants. It helps a lot.”
Patrick Todd, manager of Ivanhoe Pub and Eatery, 231 Main St., said he was “very thrilled” to hear the news that the city would be keeping bagged meters in place outside restaurants for the foreseeable future.
“It’s been really nice having those spots,” said Todd, who noted that he was one of the city’s first restaurateurs to approach the city about the possibility of free bagged parking. “Parking Downtown can be tough anyway … so it’s really nice to have that.”
While not as reliant as other Downtown restaurant owners for on-street parking, as he has a dedicated off-street parking lot, Richard Buehrens, owner of Kewpee Sandwich Shop, 520 Wisconsin Ave., said he’s pleased with the city’s decision to continue to provide the bagged spots.
“The city trying to help out the restaurants, I think that’s great,” he said.
Corey Oakland, owner-operator-manager of family-run Red Onion Café, 555 Main St., said he would like to see metered parking payments eliminated entirely in the city, noting the cost of parking tickets has cost him some business as the citations make for pricey meals for his customers.
That being said, Oakland noted that anything that the City of Racine can do to maintain some dedicated free bagged parking meters in support of takeout and curbside pickup foot orders is “great” and “helpful” for restaurants working to recover from the pandemic shutdown.
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