Full garages bad for Vail business? | VailDaily.com

Full garages bad for Vail business?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Daily file photoIronically, some Vail, Colorado businesses don't like it when the parking garages are full.

VAIL, Colorado ” Cars parked on the Frontage Road might signal a busy day on the mountain, but it usually means a slow day for Vail, Colorado businesses such as Sweet Basil restaurant.

“When the parking structure is jammed, the idea is that everyone is doing great,” said owner Matt Morgan. “But those are typically some of our worst days.”

Morgan, along with many other Vail Village business people, said they find that Vail’s skier parking problem is bad for business. Customers coming to the village to shop or eat lunch are frustrated when they can’t find parking on Vail’s busiest days, they said.

At times, customers might decide not to come into the village at all on busy days, knowing they have to jump the parking hurdle, said Dan Telleen, owner of Karats, a village jewelry store.

“When (the garage) is full, and someone comes all the way over from Edwards or whatever, and they can’t find a place, they probably won’t come back,” he said.

Parking needs to be close and convenient for shoppers, he said.

“Some skiers don’t mind parking on the Frontage Road. Coming to Vail and not having to pay for parking is a great trade, and they’re used to carrying skis,” Telleen said. “But for someone who is dressed for shopping and ready for shopping, walking on the Frontage Road in the wind, on ice ” it’s just not a world-class shopping experience.”

Morgan said he’s had customers call to cancel their reservations after driving around for 30 minutes in search of parking.

“I think that local people get this idea to stay away from the village on the weekends, especially on those big days when everyone knows its going to be jammed,” he said.

The parking shortage is a problem Vail officials said they have been working to solve. The town has opened various spots around town for free ski parking and created “shopper parking” spots, which are reserved parking spots that go for a rate of $15 for two and a half hours.

The spots are located at the top level of the Vail Village structure and on level 2 of the Lionshead structure.

The idea of the shopper spots are to create short-term parking spots that would fill up last, leaving spots open for shoppers, diners or even skiers only looking to be on the mountain for a couple hours.

However, town staff and village business owners say they’ve found that many people don’t know about the shopper parking and that the spots are often empty.

In addition, several of the shopper parking spots have been converted into free 30-minute spaces. The town saw a need for the spaces after hearing feedback that more flexibility was needed for people making short trips to the village.

Next season, it might also be possible for village shoppers and diners to have their parking tickets validated. Some business owners said parking validation would be a nice gesture and that their customers often ask for the service.

Right now, the garages do not have the machines and software to have a validation system, but town officials said they are working on it for next season.

“The bottom line is that we need more parking, and we (the town) can’t afford to do it by ourselves,” said councilman Farrow Hitt. “We need our partners to step up ” all of them ” Vail Resorts, the county, the hospital. Our success is part of what’s created the problem, and unfortunately our parking abilities haven’t kept up.”

In a tough economic year, parking complications only hurt business and further discourage customers from coming, some businesses said.

“It adds to a difficult economic environment,” said Gorsuch director of operations Kathleen Barron. “We’ve had customers upset, or in a big rush because they’re in the 15-minute parking. (The parking charge) is a lot of money for people, and they might not come if they’re not even sure if they can get a spot.”

Morgan, of Sweet Basil, said that in the past he’s gotten upset about full parking garages ” but this year he’s just glad people are still coming to Vail.

“It’s hard to complain about too many people this year, given what’s happening in the economy,” he said. “It’s better than having an empty parking structure.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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