Market Square plans valet service
Charles Nikoula rarely visits Downtown on his days off, but said he might start coming more often for the convenience of $5 valet parking in Market Square.
"Five bucks is a really good idea to bring in people," said Nikoula, 23, of Greensburg, who works as a cook at Vallozzi's Pittsburgh Italian restaurant on Fifth Avenue. "Parking is a huge factor for people."
The Market Square Merchants Association will offer valet parking from 5 p.m. to midnight daily starting on Tuesday. Motorists can drop their cars in front of the Diamond Market Bar and Grill at Market Street and Market Square. The association is contracting with Tri State Valet of Green Tree for the service.
"The point we need to get across is you're not restricted as to where you go," said Nick Nicholas, owner of Nicholas Coffee, several buildings in Market Square and a partner in Diamond Market. "I think it's a tremendous thing if people know they don't have to fight a parking garage."
The Pittsburgh Parking Authority will provide spaces in the authority's garage on Third Avenue. The authority will receive $2 per vehicle, a discount from regular evening rates, which range from $2 to a maximum of $5, depending on how long the vehicle is in the garage. Authority Executive Director David Onorato said the authority will make money with the program.
"There's plenty of space available in that garage in the evening, and it's kind of found revenue," he said. "If they didn't valet the cars there, we would be getting nothing on those spaces. Now we're getting $2."
Other cities across the country have created similar programs with mixed success.
Michael Malone, president of the Delray Beach, Fla., Chamber of Commerce, said businesses in his city have contracted with private companies for evening valet service since last year. Patrons drop their car off with an attendant and go anywhere along Atlantic Avenue, a strip consisting of about 17 blocks lined with restaurants, bars and music venues. The cost ranges from $10 to $20, Malone said.
"It's basically just a convenience for the patrons, and it has worked well in this community," he said.
That wasn't the case in Portsmouth, N.H., where valet service died because of a lack of interest, said John Frederick, director of the city Parking and Transit Authority. He said a private valet company parked the cars but couldn't generate enough customers. The rate was $10.
"They weren't able to make enough money to keep it going," Frederick said.
The Merchants Association will offer the valet service through at least the end of the year. If it makes money, it will continue, Nicholas said.
Mike Mitcham, manager of Primanti Bros. restaurant in Market Square, believes his customers would be glad to have valet service.
"It always seems that whenever somebody comes Downtown into Market Square, one of the things that keeps coming up is parking: There's nowhere to park, there's tickets," he said. "Now you don't have to worry about getting a ticket and you don't have to worry about driving around, trying to find a spot."