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Buh-bye to Sarasota’s Main Street!

Buh-bye, C’est la Vie. Buh-bye Pastry Arts. Buh-bye Main Street Hardware. Buh-bye all those great little shops I swing in and out of on my way back and forth from client meetings and gal-pal hang-outs, and other varied and assorted downtown rendezvous.

Just color me too cheap to pay for parking.

But you can also color me as someone who knows Sarasota’s identity — why people come here and want to stay here and I’m not about to mess with that.

Sarasota is attractive to so many precisely because of it’s slo-mo, kick-back attitude, the relax on Main and watch the pretty people pass by mentality — parking meters destroy that sensibility, that identity.

The meters are butt-ugly so they also destroy the downtown aesthetic which I think has improved in recent years. But as in all things, our boys and girls at City Hall just don’t have their thinking caps on. They just have those little accountant visors — the ones that only let them see and chase some continuously moving bottom line of dollars.

In the so-called new economy, are our City Commissioners really so completely out of touch with the common man that they can’t see that we can’t take one more TAX squeeze? Most of the time, I can barely afford the coffee I’m buying at C’est la Vie, much less another dollar added for parking. ‘Course, guess I could take it out of the tip — am sure the servers busting their humps all up and down Main would love that solution.

Also, honestly, it’s just the principle — those are city streets that we own, aren’t they? So, first we pay for the streets, then we pay to park on them? I don’t know all the ins and outs of what, precisely, taxpayers own in connection to city streets, but I’ve got a feeling — hey, those buggers are already ours!!! Somebody out there who knows more than me? — correct me if I’m wrong!

And then there’s the whole ILLUSION OF GRANDEUR thing that’s ticking me off. Do our commissioners think they’re in Boston or something? Sarasota’s Main Street is not, I repeat, is not some single marvelous mecca for downtown shopping and dining — we’ve got Siesta, St. Armand’s, and a plethora of other charming little spots to hang out in all over Sarasota and Manatee County. Downtown is not the only draw for miles and miles. It is not the only game in town that’s easy to get to.

Sarasota’s downtown is a small, nice, pleasant walkable place chock o’block full of great restaurants and shops and streetside goings-on and music … but a majority of that action takes place after 6 p.m. — duh, when the parking meters will be turned off.

Tell me I have to pay to park and then worry about hoofing it back to the meter before two hours have passed and um, well, I’ll take a pass. I’ll meet someplace else.

I refuse to pay for parking in a little town like Sarasota. i regularly meet clients and colleagues and friends downtown and spend money on Main street, but I absolutely won’t if I have to pay for parking. Or else, I’ll schedule stuff for after 6 pm when the cheap seats are available. I know it sounds cheap but it’s just ’cause i’m a curmudgeon (hey, women can be those too, can’t we?). Too many off-main options to meet that are still close to downtown. I don’t mind circling around the block for a spot and I’ve never, ever — even in the height of season — not been able to park downtown.

It’s complete b.s. to focus on moving traffic every two hours — the point is to draw people and KEEP THEM THERE. Are the commissioners missing that very major point? When I go downtown for a meeting, I always take advantage of being on Main by swinging into Whole Foods, picking up my newspaper at Sarasota News & Books (alas, that too will soon be no more), maybe dropping into Pastry Arts for a tart to take home, swing into Write-On and see what’s on sale. I might schedule a hair appointment, or then go meet a friend or colleague for a drink if it’s late in the day enough. And all that is AFTER my 1.5 hour meeting where both my client or colleague and I dropped money at a Main Street restaurant. The point is, I drop more money downtown when I’m not told I have to move it or lose it.

That’s just uncivilized.

It’s impossible to get in and out of everything you want to do downtown in two hours and most civilized people will refuse to be rushed.

Smart people — busy people — professionals — just won’t tie themselves in to the very unhip idea of rushing themselves to beat a meter. You’re wearing 5 inch heels and carrying a portfolio — but yes, run two blocks to try to catch your meter before it clicks to a ticket? You’re brushing up on your French with fellow francophiles at C’est la Ve at 230 pm — a notoriously dead time for them so they’d appreciate a table of five drinking capp after capp and breaking in a lunch as well — but you’re supposed to dine and dash in less than two hours?

Oh, well — I’m envisioning a big uptick in mid-day biz at Word of Mouth (on Osprey) and maybe at Cafe du Monde on 41.

See ya, downtown Sarasota!

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Posted on August 20th, 2009Comments RSS Feed
7 Responses to Buh-bye to Sarasota’s Main Street!
  1. John W. Perkins
    August 20, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Parking meters are but a spit in to the ocean compared to the Trillions of dollars in debt the Federal Government is putting us in..

    Reply
  2. Hi MC,

    You are so right. What a short sighted move to place parking meters downtown with so many businesses struggling to survive and so many going out of business. We were shocked and saddened by the closing of Sarasota News and Books and are wondering who’s next, maybe they’ll start charging admission to the Saturday Farmer’s Market. Oopps, I don’t want to give them ideas. The times we are living in are not good.

    Reply
  3. Keith — thanks for reading the blog and for taking the time to comment! It is crazy about the meters and even crazier to spend the half-mill-plus to install them during these bad economic times. Later today I’ll be posting a column that will appear next week in Creative Loafing — about Sarasota News & Books. I’m really sad about that.

    Reply
  4. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree with you and I am saddened to see it happening here in Sarasota. I had a gallery in Maryland and the city attempted to do the same thing but the businesses and neighbors objected so strongly that the idea was tabled for 3 years. I recently heard that the meters were put into effect and business has dropped so dramatically that most of the small businesses had to close. It would be a shame to see big box stores move into downtown Sarasota but that’s what ends up happening when the small businesses can no longer hang on.

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  5. Thanks Brenda, for reading the blog and for commenting. I wish this community had objected more strongly. I am going to stop going to Main Street now, unfortunately, up until 8 pm! :)

    Reply
  6. I recently came here from Los Angeles, CA to check out my new possible home and business and fell in love with downtown Sarasota. My wife and kids (3) visited last year and attended art festivals and marina events so when I read this blog about parking meters I too was concerned. it reminded me of LA and how much they stick it to you before you even enter a restaurant and eat. I stopped going to those restaurants where you had to pay $10 to park before you even went in and sat down. It spoiled the mood not to mention my dinner. I will probably do the same here. I’ll find another place to take my family of 5 for lunch ($$$$$).

    Reply
  7. Thanks, Ed, for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I feel the same way. I’ve already stopped making plans for meetings with colleagues or clients at downtown venues. I’m just not up for the parking surcharge. Just seems wrong for this little town. I appreciate you reading mcrealityonline and hope you’ll come back — both to my blog and to Sarasota!

    Reply

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