Parking For The Bars And Clubs In The West End Pits Business Against Business
April 5, 2007
By ADAM BULGER, Hartford Advocate Staff Writer
Thankfully, my tipping point over traffic in Hartford’s West End neighborhood turned out to be a false alarm. While picking up food from West End bar and restaurant The Half Door, I noticed a handwritten sign on the door warning customers not to park in the lots behind Farmington Avenue Brazilian restaurant Churrascaria Braza or the closed pub Roo Bar. A popular bar located on a heavily trafficked street that feeds onto I-84, The Half Door already had enough traffic problems.
The problem wasn’t permanent. According to a manager at Braza, Half Door patrons were only being kept out of the lot for St. Patrick’s Day. The early-starting drinkers celebrating at the Half Door had monopolized the parking at Braza, preventing lovers of Brazilian barbecue from parking.
Still, it illustrates the delicate balance of parking in the West End. With restaurants and shops becoming increasingly popular, parking is at more and more of a premium. Bars, restaurants and retail establishments are becoming increasingly territorial about their parking. As the Advocate has reported in the past, the parking lot containing Kinko’s, across the street from Tisane, has for some time been towing people for parking there, to the annoyance of patrons.
“Tisane is my favorite bar,” Tisane patron Jen Janik said. “But why should I go there when I can go to West Hartford center or downtown Hartford, where they have parking?”
Workers from Wash Tub Laundry, which shares a parking lot with Tisane, regularly patrol the parking lot, telling patrons they can’t park on the laundromat’s side before 8 p.m.
“This is not a new issue. It’s been an issue for several years,” West End Civic Association spokesman David S. Barrett said. Barrett advised a creative approach to parking.
“There’s more parking than people realize. There’s parking on Farmington Avenue, that people often don’t realize is available after 6 p.m., particularly on the south side of the avenue,” Barrett said.
However, Barrett said he recognized that people want off-street parking. Since January, members of the West End Civic Association have formed a small task force to look into parking issues. According to task force member Jill Barrett, it is still a work in progress. “There was a committee formed to see if there would be an agreement or a solution for the parking needs. We’ve been researching, and we’ve talked with the key property owners between Kenyon and Whitney [streets] to learn what their needs and issues are,” Jill Barrett said.
“Everybody looks at the Kinko’s lot as the obvious solution, but it has complexities. If there was an easy solution, it would have been worked out by now,” Jill Barrett said.
According to Mike Panek, whose Phoenix Realty owns the Kinko’s building and lot, business owners haven’t been cooperative about finding mutually beneficial solutions.
“I had gone a couple of times to Tisane and made a couple of phone calls to Tisane,” says Panek. “I tried to get in contact with them, and never heard a word. The first night we towed cars, that’s when they called me and asked what I was doing. They had ample opportunity to discuss it.” (Tisane didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Panek said that the owners of Ichiban, across the street, likewise didn’t cooperate with him when he complained that his lot was being filled by their patrons.
“I don’t want to tow. I don’t want to be in the newspaper,” says Panek. “I don’t want to be the ogre on the block. But I have to protect my tenants.” He added: “Nobody has come up with a better solution than what we have now.”
By the by, as of this time of writing, that sign was still up at the Half Door.