Downtown JC business owners say people parking in designated curbside pickup spots hurting bottom line

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- One of the ways many small businesses and restaurants have coped and even survived through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is through curbside and takeout orders.

In downtown Johnson City, officials worked to help some of these small businesses by creating designated curbside parking spaces so customers could get in and out quickly.

Some restaurant owners in downtown Johnson City told News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun that other drivers are taking advantage of the reserved curbside parking spaces.

Red Meze Co-owner Bulent Yaman said that “75 percent, maybe 80 percent of my sales are curbside pickup.”

Yaman has had issues with people ignoring the curbside parking spot signs, ultimately impacting the restaurant’s business.

“The biggest issue I had was the people who can’t come in, pick-up their foods. They want to, somewhere convenient. They know where they can park, and go pick-up their food and go, instead of searching for a parking space that can be far away,” Yaman said.

Nearby Korean Taco House manager, Jacob Mahaley, said, “It’s a big help for us, especially when we have large catering orders. I mean, just the other week, we had a customer come in and she had a large order and it’d be difficult to take it across the street for her, and she could have easily just parked right here.”

Mahaley told Kassahun that about 70 percent of his sales are now pickup orders.

Mahaley said, “We’ve mainly done to go and carry out, and some delivery. Being a small restaurant, we have six tables, so we don’t really have the space to accommodate people and have the 6 foot social distancing policy. So, we’re mainly doing takeout. That’s been a majority of our business since mid-April.”

“There are only about six curbside spaces throughout Downtown Johnson City so it’s not like we took out a lot of public spaces,” Johnson City Development Authority Executive Director Dianna Cantler added.

While these are courtesy spots, Cantler said in order to help support local businesses, it is imperative that we respect these spaces.

“There is plenty of parking in Downtown Johnson City. We have some major lots that are very close to our downtown core, close to our restaurants and it’s very rare that all of those spaces are booked. What we’re asking our public is, as they’re supporting small local businesses, that they not take those curbside courtesy spaces. It is not enforceable. It was not created by an ordinance,” Cantler said.

Mahaley also added, “Recently, people have been taking advantage of it. We’ve asked them politely if they can move. Some people have been a bit negative about it but like I said, it’s not enforceable. It’s the common courtesy, especially for these trying times for local restaurants.”

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