DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – At Bull City Burger and Brewery, CEO Seth Gross, who also owns two other restaurants, told CBS 17 that his business is still recovering from the pandemic.
“I literally took on $1 million in debt, just to keep these companies,” Gross said. “Right now, we still need to hire 20 percent more employees.”
But now there is another challenge he said they are facing, as the city of Durham is considering raising parking fees downtown.
Currently, on-street parking is $1.50 an hour and city garage parking is $1.25 an hour.
The city is proposing a $1 increase which would make on-street parking $2.50 an hour and city garage parking $2.25 an hour.
This would be a 67 percent increase for on-street parking and an 80 percent increase for city garage parking.
Gross said he’s concerned about how this will impact his employees who will have to pay thousands more dollars in parking fees per year.
“If someone works a dayshift, practically the first hour of pay goes just to paying for parking and that’s a real problem for downtown businesses,” Gross said. “This is a real issue at a time when it’s very difficult to find employees.”
City leaders told CBS 17 in an email that raising parking fees is needed to help pay for upgrades to the parking system.
But this parking fee increase would mean Durham would be paying one of the highest parking fees for on-street parking at $2.50 an hour, which is more than Raleigh ($1.50), Chapel Hill ($1.75) Charlotte ($1.00), and Charleston, SC ($2.00).
CBS 17 asked the city’s transportation department why they are recommending parking fees be increased by $1, but we are waiting to hear back.
Durham City Council will vote on the proposed parking fee increase at the June 6 city council meeting.
Gross said he is hoping city council members will think twice before raising it by this much.
“We are what makes downtown special, all of these retail locations and restaurants — we are all independently owned,” Gross said. “If you keep doing things that are anti-business and business-unfriendly, and we go away, then all your choices become the chains. Then we will look like every other city out there, who has just been taken over by big corporate chains.”
City staff did tell CBS 17 in an email that the city is working on authorizing a voucher program for employees of businesses who make less than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI).
The new voucher would provide a 50 percent discount to qualifying individuals, which would decrease the cost of monthly parking for them from $100 a month to $70 a month this summer.
A presentation on the voucher program will be presented to Durham City Council on June 9.
If Durham City Council members approve an increase in parking costs, it would take effect on July 1.