Columbia sets aside parking spots for pickup, curbside services
COLUMBIA— Picking up some takeout? The City of Columbia has you covered for parking.
The city installed parking meter covers in front of some downtown businesses in May to allow customers free short-term parking for curbside pickup.
The District downtown encouraged the city to install meter covers to allow for businesses to provide curbside services during the stay-at-home shut down when parking enforcement was suspended in March.
“We asked them to do that just to help our businesses,” said Nickie Davis, The District executive director. “Parking downtown is always difficult for customers, so we were hoping that with the un-enforcing of the meters and then easy curbside would be easy access for people to quickly swing in and utilize our small business’s service.”
Some business owners like Paul Vernon of Top Ten Wines initially didn’t realize what the covers were for when the city began to put them on last month.
“I was surprised when the meter agents were putting them on,” Vernon said. “I wasn’t sure I wanted them because I didn’t know what they were for.”
Before the city made the decision to install the meter covers, businesses had to pay for spots if they wished to reserve one in front of their stores. In light of COVID-19 and the impact business owners like Vernon have seen in the recent months, the spaces provided by the city aim to keep businesses open.
“Parking spaces to rent are cost prohibitive for businesses, particularly restaurants who are operating at 50 percent or 25 percent occupancy,” Vernon said. “You can’t throw that expense on top of all the other things that are hurting them right now.”
Vernon’s business had to stop serving food and switch exclusively to retail. For nearby restaurants, he stressed the importance of designated curbside pickup.
“For restaurants particularly, being able to get in and out quickly is really valuable to those restaurants,” Vernon said. “I’m lucky to have my retail business be able to hold me over.”
Vernon also mentioned how neighboring businesses have been sharing their designated curbside parking spaces.
“I think we as business owners have to collaborate, cooperate over this,” Vernon said. “We all know that we’ll be a stronger downtown if we all survive all of this.”
Boone County released phase three of a public health order that went into effect Jun. 23. The order lifted capacity restrictions for businesses, as long as social distancing is still in place. For smaller businesses who can’t function at full capacity and maintain social distancing, the curbside spots have been a necessity to keep businesses open.
“These are one of the very few lifelines that our businesses have right now. Our businesses are struggling," Davis said. “If there is one way that we can help our businesses continue to survive, we will find that way and utilize it.
Parking enforcement resumed on Jun. 16, but the parking meter covers will remain for the foreseeable future.
“I think that customers like the curbside pickup, and our businesses like it as well, Davis said. “So we will continue to do it for as long as we can.”