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Bridge Street valet parking service stymied

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

A vehicle — possibly looking for parking — turns off of the roundabout on Gulf Drive onto Bridge Street, where finding a slot is no easy task. A proposal to initiate a valet parking service for Bridge Street hit a snag just days before it was to get a trial run to determine its effectiveness. Islander Photo: Mark Young

A valet parking service proposed by Bridge Street Bistro was designed to alleviate parking issues on Bridge Street, but the project rolled to a stop last week.

At the March 15 Bradenton Beach City Commission meeting, commissioners listened to a proposal from Bridge Street Bistro planner Bruce Franklin to initiate a valet parking service. The restaurant sought a 90-day temporary-use permit from the city.

After reviewing the restaurant’s traffic plan and discussing options, commissioners settled on granting a 30-day trial permit, agreeing to review the effectiveness of the service after a month’s time.

The service was expected to begin March 21, but the plans were halted after restaurant owner Bill Herlihy received a letter from the owner of Bridgewalk Resort — his landlord — and the driveway included in the valet traffic flow.

The plan was to move traffic from the restaurant which leases its property from Bridgewalk, through the resort’s driveway onto Bridge Street, and into a vacant lot, which the restaurant planned to lease for $1,500 a month.

According to the letter received by Herlihy from Bridgewalk, the resort did not want additional traffic flowing past its pool area.

“It kind of made it impossible to move forward,” said Herlihy. “The restrictions the resort put on us made it impossible for us to put any more money into it.”

Herlihy said the restaurant had already paid $3,500 for design and planning, and had moved forward with the plan based on previous discussions with those who would be impacted by the service.

“I was under the impression that this was a go,” he said. “It’s not like I would have moved forward with this without having talked to everyone involved. We talked about it a year ago, about how it would be a benefit to all the businesses and the community.”

Herlihy said the resort wanted him to limit the trial valet period to two weeks, but that proved to be impossible to insure.

“And I would have had to guarantee a month’s service to the valet company for a month’s pay and why would anyone want to pay for a service that you aren’t sure you will have,” he said. “So with that two-week clause, we had to pull the plug.”

And the valet service would not have been restricted to parking restaurant customers.

“The restaurant is packed, so we can’t do any more people than what we are already doing,” said Herlihy. “So we are fine and not having the service isn’t going to hurt our business. That’s not what it was about. We were trying to come up with something for everybody involved with the (Bridge Street) merchants association.”

The valet service, while paid for by the restaurant, was planned to serve anyone wishing to peruse Bridge Street businesses.

“It was a big commitment on my part to the community,” said Herlihy. “Everybody thought it was a good idea and some of these restaurants on Bridge Street have virtually no parking. The main goal was just trying to get rid of the image that we are parking unfriendly on the Island.”

Herlihy said that as a business owner on Bridge Street, he is well aware of the parking issues visitors have.

“I’ll see the same cars five, six, seven times circling the block,” he said. “We wanted to address some of the safety issues, as well. People see an open spot and they’ll race for it. It would have cut down on congestion.”

Herlihy said he’s disappointed, but would try to come up with another plan.

“It’s unfortunate because we really wanted to try this,” he said. “I’ve done the same thing on St. Armand’s Circle where we parked 140 cars without an issue. I’m a persistent guy though, and we’ll just have to look at it in a different way and see what we can come up with.”

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