The city’s decision to begin charging for parking around the Will Rogers Coliseum is cutting into attendance at the city’s primary flea market on Harley Avenue.
Charles Estell, who manages the Cattle Barn Flea Market, said the new parking fees are “killing us.”
“We don’t get enough people in here like we used to,” he said.
A vendor who has worked the flea market for about 20 years said the crowds fizzled once parking fees were implemented on May 1. Flea market customers – and vendors too – must pay $5 to park inside the fence, or $3 to park across the street in the Harley Avenue lot.
“Last week was scary how much the parking fees affected the barn,” the longtime vendor said. “This Saturday was horrible. Sunday was a little better, but people are throwing a fit about having to pay to park.”
Customers and vendors are also complaining about the inefficiency of the company that supplies parking attendants to collect fees.
“They aren’t organized,” the vendor said.
The parking company typically provides only one attendant at the main flea market entrance. The other entrances, which used to be open for traffic, are now closed. So the line of cars waiting to get inside early in the morning, when vendors and die-hard customers typically arrive, can be long and slow.
Estell agreed that the parking company has done a spotty job.
“Sometimes they don’t seem to know what they’re doing,” he said. “It makes you want to pull your hair out.”
To add insult to injury, the parking garage and parking lots don’t have many cars in them. People grumble about paying $5 to park in empty lots.
“Everybody is unhappy with it,” a vendor said. “It’s awful.”
Z’s Cafe in the nearby Community Arts Center has seen a 50 percent reduction in business because of the parking fees, said cafe co-owner Carlo Capua.
Most people fret about the $5 parking fee but aren’t aware of the $3 lots farther out, the $2 fee for using the parking garage for 90 minutes or less, or the parking validation offered at Z’s, Capua said.
“If you come in and park in the garage and you’re in our café for less than 90 minutes, we’ll validate for free,” he said.
Capua isn’t happy about the parking fees — “I thought the city would be more open to supporting the small businesses and museums in the area,” he said — but he figures to persevere.
“We’ll make it,” he said.