Merchants in Breckenridge to pay for customer parking validations | SummitDaily.com

Merchants in Breckenridge to pay for customer parking validations

Eric Mamula, mayor of Breckenridge and owner of Downstairs at Eric's has already begun using the new merchant validation system for paid parking in the town.

Merchants in Breckenridge can validate customer parking, but restaurant owners have been slow to sign up in the first week.

Some in the Breckenridge Restaurant Association are unsure how paying for validations out of their own pockets will impact business. Parking and merchant validation will be one of the topics discussed at the association's meeting next Tuesday.

Historically, Mayor Eric Mamula said that the association has been against paid parking in the town, but that some members support the town's newest program. Mamula owns Downstairs at Eric's and is a member of the association.

Dick Carleton, co-owner of Hearthstone Restaurant and Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant in Breckenridge, as well as treasurer of the restaurant association, said that since the program is still a work in progress, he's unsure yet on whether or not to use it. But cooperation from the town has been an important step.

"I appreciate that the town of Breck is making an effort to work with everyone," he said.

In order to use the merchant validation system in Breckenridge, restaurants have to put forward their own money, something that Chmurny Caine, owner of The Motherloaded Tavern, doesn't think is affordable.

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Caine said she was concerned that not being able to offer validation deals would drive business away. On the flip side, she's worried that paying for validations could raise her costs.

Hours of operation are another consideration on whether or not parking will impact business, as several lots in town are free after 3 p.m. Teryn Guardagnoli, owner of Modis, said that since her location opens at 3, only time will tell what kind of impact paid parking will have.

"I'm just trying to understand it the best as I can," she said.

Breckenridge's assistant town manager, Shannon Haynes, said that the town has been working to make the system easy to use. Mamula has already begun using the merchant validation system for his restaurant. This has helped the town to work out some kinks in order to make it a more seamless process.

"We're trying to make it as pleasurable and as easy as possible," Haynes said.

To purchase validation codes, merchants must use the Passport Parking app or a mobile device. They fill the "wallet" feature on the app with funds. Users can customize their validation deals, such as only validating after a customer spends a certain amount. Regular users can also use the wallet feature to pay for public parking. For the month of December, Haynes said that the town will match whatever money merchants put in for validation codes up to $500. However, merchants won't see that money until after the first of the new year.

Breckenridge Police chief Dennis McLaughlin said that six businesses have signed up to use the program so far. Mamula said that town staff has gotten feedback both in person as well as on the BreckForward website for parking. He added that the council knows it won't be an easy change, and that problems will have to be worked out over time.

"It's good to hear all sides of this stuff," he said. "Some people are against it, but understand."

Vail has had paid parking in the town since the mid-'70s. Similar to Breckenridge, the town implemented a parking and transportation task force. Suzanne Silverthorn, the director of communications for Vail, said that after the task force was formed in the late '90s, it discussed having a system for merchant validation where owners would pay to cover the fee.

The discussions never came to fruition, as the town does not currently have a system for merchants to validate parking. Silverthorn said this is in part because the town originally offered 90 minutes of free parking, but bumped it to two hours after receiving complaints from users that it wasn't enough time to sit down for a meal at a restaurant.

Silverthorn said that the town is currently reforming a parking and transportation task force, and that merchant parking may be brought up again.

Breckenridge offers 15 minutes of free parking, which Caine said is not enough for people to get things done in town. She also argues that Breckenridge could stand out as a resort town that still offered free parking.

"To charge the people who are working so hard to make this town something great is a tough pill to swallow," Caine said.

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