Aspen gets the boot again
December 29, 2008
ASPEN ” It appears that Aspen’s “boot man” has some competition in the illegally-parked car market.
The Aspen Booting Co. (ABC) recently showed up on the scene, cutting into longtime car booter Britt Queer’s business.
ABC has been booting cars in the City Market parking lot in Aspen for about a month. The grocery store brought ABC on board to patrol the small, crowded parking lot which is often used as vehicle storage for skiers and errand runners.
Queer, who has had the only car-booting business in Aspen for nearly two decades, said he made a bid for the City Market job but it didn’t pan out.
“Usually it’s just a handshake and I show up and boot,” he said, adding ABC’s owner recently asked him if he wanted to cover for him a few days a week because he’s too busy ” an usual offer from the competition.
Instead, ABC found Teddy Williams from New Castle to do the dirty deed of clamping boots on the tires of scofflaws’ vehicles at City Market, which effectively immobilizes them until they pay to have the boot removed.
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On Saturday, Burley Melton and his family returned to their car after shopping at the supermarket to find a boot on the front wheel of their rental car. The family, visiting from Holland and Delaware, had City Market shopping bags in their trunk.
“We’re extremely upset,” Melton said, adding some of his family went shopping in town to replace ski equipment and clothing lost by the airline.
Melton said he was 11 minutes overdue on the one-hour limit.
When Williams saw the grocery bags in the trunk, he removed the boot free of charge.
“I’m just trying to do the job right,” he said shortly before he posed with the family for a photo in the parking lot.
“A happy ending,” Melton said.
There’s no signs in the City Market parking lot indicating that cars will be booted. But there are a few signs that read one-hour parking and warn that cars are subject to being towed.
Queer has controlled the boot zone at Clark’s Market in Aspen since 2007, when he contracted with the building’s owners, Frank Woods and Tony Mazza, to patrol the parking lot.
In the beginning, Queer did some public outreach so motorists wouldn’t be blindsided by the change, and the parking lot is filled with signs that have Queer’s phone number and a warning that cars will be booted if they overstay their allotted time.
“I would make sure there are signs and there are no signs anywhere [at City Market],” Queer said. “I try to let town know what I’m doing … it makes everything run smoother.”
Queer contracts with property owners to boot cars whose drivers park on their private property. In addition to Clark’s Market, Queer’s boot turf includes the lots behind the Miner’s building, Boogie’s Diner and the ones next to the Wienerstube and the Gap. And in all places, there are signs with his phone number prominently displayed.
The city of Aspen once considered an ordinance that would have required clear signs at the affected parking areas, warning drivers they would be booted if they parked there, and what the fee is to be “de-booted.” The law never was never passed.
City Market manager John Hailey said the supermarket chain hired ABC to better assist customers, who are often forced to circle the parking lot for a space.
“I watch my customers drive around and end up going somewhere else,” he said, adding the boot patrol has been effective. “We’re seeing a noticeable difference.”