‘They need to do more’ downtown business owners react to parking fees potentially being suspended

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Blu Sushi just announced it is closing its doors after 10 years, but for the downtown businesses that remain, they fear what could be next for them, even after leaders discussed potentially suspended downtown parking fees.

Business owners told WINK, right now, they are not getting enough foot traffic in the door.

Mayor Kevin Anderson said he’s aware and it’s why he proposed during a city council meeting Monday that city leaders suspend downtown parking fees after 5pm until the Caloosahatchee Bridge reopens.

“I live in the heart of downtown, so I interact with a lot of the businesses and the owners. So, I hear feedback all the time. There’s a lot of a lot of concerns. First of all, from the hurricane, we lost three marinas, where those were semi residents of downtown, who are no longer there,” Mayor Kevin Anderson said.

Downtown parking fees potentially suspended
downtown parking

Although business owners like Raimond Aulen who owns several businesses downtown said suspending parking fees after 5pm is a good start, he thinks more needs to be done to get people to come to downtown Fort Myers.

“If it’s just until the bridge reopens, then they’re still doing the same thing. And they’re still going to make people angry, people are already really angry about, you know, being basically taxed to come down here,” Aulen said. “The people that come here after five, they can go anywhere they want, they choose to come downtown because of the hospitality, and extracting money from them in that manner, I don’t think is a very hospitable thing to do.”

Eric Newcombe lives in the area and agrees with Aulen. He said if the goal is to drive people back to the downtown area, the city is going to have to figure out some other avenues to put people in a position to save money.

“I think they got to do more. I think they should just suspend parking period. Like, just get rid of it. Stop paying for parking, period. Like, I’m tired of the squeeze. Like if I can frequent businesses here and not be squeezed on every other side. You know, like I’m paying for my parking right now. That’d be cool if I wasn’t,” Newcombe said. “So I think they should just drop this parking fees altogether. Drop all this stuff. There’s just like, all these little extra things that just like going out, it’s not even worth it anymore.”

Mayor Anderson said the city is also working on getting more signage in the downtown area to let people know where there are open parking spots.

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