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Pittsburgh council proposes licenses for valets

| Thursday, May 2, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
Orange traffic cones block off a section of Market Square for valet parking company Tri State Valet.
Traffic cones placed by valets working in Market Square block access to Graeme Street from Fifth Avenue.
A “No Parking” sign in Market Square used by Tri State Valet.

Valet parking operators for the first time would have to be licensed under legislation Pittsburgh City Council is considering because of concerns about aggressive tactics in Market Square.

Councilman Daniel Lavelle, who sponsored the ordinance, said it stems from complaints that Tri State Valet Inc. employees tried to force Market Square customers to use the service, parked cars in on-street spaces instead of in a designated garage and used a private lot without permission.

“Pittsburgh has never had a valet parking ordinance,” Lavelle said. “It was pretty much just a handshake agreement with (valet operators).”

A Market Square business association is considering replacing the politically-connected Green Tree company with a different operator, a board member said on Wednesday.

“The rest of the board wanted to look elsewhere after the negative publicity was received to see if there were other operators who could operate more professionally,” said Pete Landis, managing partner of Perle restaurant and a member of the Market Square Merchants Association board.

Tri State owner Robert Gigliotti, 46, of Banksville did not return a call.

“We welcome the competition, and we're confident in the professionalism of our organization,” said Lou Blauth, Gigliotti's attorney.

The Tribune-Review reported last month that the city police bureau consistently awarded Tri State more parking spots than competitors, giving the company an unfair advantage.

Gigliotti, whose wife is a city police detective, is a friend of former Chief Nate Harper and is well connected among politicians, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. Gigliotti is a member of the 20th Ward Democratic Committee and served on one of Ravenstahl's re-election fundraising committees in 2011.

City police ramped up spot inspections of valet stands as a result of the complaints in Market Square and limited the number of parking spots to four, with the exception of special events. Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant, who instituted the changes, was not available for comment.

Under the ordinance, operators would have to apply each year for a license at a cost of $100 per location. There is no fee now.

Operators would be prohibited from parking cars on streets, be permitted a maximum of four spaces for drop-off and delivery, and be required to provide proof of insurance. The ordinance requires a secure lot for storing vehicles and city-issued signs clearly designating valet stands and spots.

City Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the bill next week. It received unanimous preliminary approval Wednesday.

“It seems like pretty reasonable stuff to me,” said Blauth, noting that Tri State spoke with Lavelle about the ordinance.

Other operators said they had no objection to the ordinance as long as it's uniform.

“I think it can only be good,” said James Tramonte, 36, of North Huntingdon, the owner of In and Out Valet with locations in Downtown and the South Side. “I just hope it goes far enough so it holds everybody accountable.

“If you're doing what you're supposed to be doing and you're serving the needs of the people in Pittsburgh, everybody's going to win.”

Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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