On Friday and Saturday nights, sources say, more than 100 cars were towed from Montgomery Plaza’s parking lot for illegal parking.
For years, visitors to the dozens of nearby bars and bar/restaurants in the West 7th Street corridor have taken advantage of the expansive free parking available at Montgomery Plaza, whose lot has room for about 500 vehicles.
The plaza recently posted paper signs indicating that parking restrictions would be enforced. “The problem is, people have been using the lot for years with no incident,” said Glen Keely, co-owner of Poag Mahone’s Irish Pub, located directly across Carroll Street from Montgomery Plaza. “They threw signs up and went to town, and unless you parked on the front row, with the signs, you would have had no clue.”
Keely said he’d heard “rumblings” for weeks that the plaza was going to begin enforcing parking restrictions, but he was not prepared for the actions that took place over the weekend.
The wreckers started towing away vehicles around 8 p.m. on Friday, ultimately making away with around 40 vehicles, he estimated.
Keely witnessed most of the action on Friday and nearly all of the action on Saturday. A “spotter,” Keely said, was patrolling the plaza’s parking lot, stealthily watching for violators and photographing their vehicles’ license plate numbers. A fleet of about a half-dozen tow-trucks, Keely estimated, was at the spotter’s call. The wreckers, said Eric Tschetter, owner of The Pour House on West 7th Street, “would pull [illegally parked] cars two wheels up, drive a block away, and then put them up on the truck. I mean, people had their parking breaks on. Cars were screeching all the way down the street. It was not a pretty sight.”
Keely, his doormen, and several other representatives from several other West 7th bars and bar/restaurants set up their own patrols across the street from the plaza, yelling at potential violators to move their cars as soon as they were parked.
The West 7th’ers and the Montgomery Plaza “spotter” reportedly got into several verbal confrontations over the weekend. “It was ugly,” Keely said.
At one point, Keely confronted a wrecker. “I told him, ‘You’re raping people for three-hundred bucks,’ ” Keely said. “He said, ‘No, it’s actually $293.30.’ ”
Jimmy Moore, owner of the 7th Haven on West 7th Street, witnessed a tow-truck driver employing a “Slim Jim” to break into a car to release the parking break. “I called him out, and he said it was perfectly legal,” Moore recalled. “The car turned out to belong to the mom of Girl Scouts selling cookies on my back deck.”
Even Montgomery Plaza customers weren’t safe. Keely said that a couple of his customers who had visited establishments located in the plaza earlier in the evening were victimized by the tow-trucks later.
The wreckers were “yanking cars out of there at 1:45 [a.m.],” Keely said, 15 minutes before closing time.
The 7th Street Business Association intends on protesting Montgomery Plaza’s new parking restrictions. Tschetter, who’s on the association’s board, believes the first step is establishing a dialogue. “We just want to ask if there’s anything we can do to help,” he said.
Montgomery Plaza, Tschetter continued, “is doing something that really and truthfully is going to backfire and hurt themselves and at the same time hurt everybody on 7th Street. … All it’s going to do is hurt the area and in no way help the area.”
Tschetter believes that only one business in Montgomery Plaza, BoomerJack’s Grill & Bar, operates late at night, at a time when business in the West 7th corridor begins to pick up. “And as far as I know, [BoomerJack’s has] “never had an issue with parking,” he said.
Twenty minutes before this story was posted, the Weekly left a message for a representative from Montgomery Plaza. Any response will be published in an additional story.