Business Monday: City of Aspen may subsidize valet parking to bolster business

City officials have realized that dealing with the Aspen business community has to be on a two-way street.

As such, the city’s parking director is hoping the local government can support business owners on “Restaurant Row” by subsidizing valet parking for restaurant-goers.

The idea comes after city officials were lambasted earlier this month by about 60 business owners and representatives over the city’s experimental plan to take away 15 parking spaces on the 300 block of East Hopkins Avenue — to make way for dedicated bike lanes and a one-way street.

The proposal is part of the city’s overall effort to reduce traffic and congestion. But business owners — especially restaurant owners on that stretch of Hopkins Avenue — said it shouldn’t be done at their expense.

“We discussed it internally, and it doesn’t make sense to move forward,” said Mitch Osur, the city’s parking director. “One of the reasons to do the valet is that we have a congestion and parking problem. … I want to fix those.”

And valet parking is the carrot that Osur wants to offer up before bringing back alternative transit ideas to the business community a year or two from now.

It would require the city taking three parking spaces on the north side of Hopkins Avenue, just west of the Wells Fargo drive-thru. Osur’s idea is to move the existing valet stand from in front of the Caribou Club a block away and relocate it on Restaurant Row in front of Steak House No. 316, owned by Samantha and Craig Cordts-Pearce.

Osur said he plans to run the idea past them this week, along with Cache Cache co-owner Jodi Larner. Osur said he has approached Wendy Mitchell, owner of Meat and Cheese restaurant and the Hooch cocktail bar below it. He said she was receptive to the idea. She had criticized the city’s plan.

“We have learned that we need to work together,” Osur said of the city government and the business community. “Whenever you try to make a change, it’s difficult.”

Currently, Jay’s Valet charges $25 per vehicle and drivers are expected to tip. Jay’s contracts with the city to provide the service. Valets park customers’ vehicles at the Rio Grande Parking Garage.

Osur said the city could subsidize the cost to make it more affordable for people, suggesting $10 or $15 is more palatable. He said he plans to go to City Council for approval hopefully next month, and estimates it would cost around $60,000 for three months this summer.

Moving the valet service location will eliminate confusion by the public that it is an exclusive offering for the private Caribou Club, and make it more visible for restaurant patrons a block away, Osur said.

“I’m anticipating we’re going to get support,” Osur said. “If this works, I would consider other valet spots around town.”