GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) – You can’t miss the sign. Parking in downtown Gulfport is limited to two hours Monday through Friday.
The ordinance has been in place for years, but now the city has stepped up enforcement.
That’s making life and business difficult for Hannah O’Keefe, owner of 13th Street Salon and Barber.
“Sixty to 80 percent of our business is done by clients of color,” she said. “All color customer service takes over two hours.”
O’Keefe has been in a verbal sparring match with the city for months, but it’s only getting more intense.
“Several of our customers have recently gotten parking tickets here for more than two hours,” O’Keefe said. “We cannot continue the conflict with people outside of us and the stress of looking after the widow.”
She said that while she does her best to protect customers, it is becoming unsustainable.
“I try to remove the $25 fee from their tickets so they don’t get to the point of no return,” she added.
From the city’s point of view, the law is not perfect, but it is fair.
Mayor Billy Hewes said: “By driving, by having a time limit on it, it’s going to give more business to a lot of people who want to park downtown, especially nearby.” “It’s a balancing act, and we’re doing the best we can.
Hewes added: “We try to make our town center as friendly as possible and take a comprehensive approach to it.” “So, if a business isn’t comfortable, we try to fix it or fix it where we can. But sometimes when we do that, we create challenges or problems for other businesses in that healing. So, it’s a balancing act and we’re doing our best. The fact of the matter is that we have not implemented a new system. It’s something that’s been around for a while and seems to work for the most part.
For other businesses, like Downtown Bistro, the rule is mandatory.
“There are a lot of bars and restaurants in the area that need a makeover and traffic throughout the day,” said owner Brian Ladner.
He added that it’s a good problem to have as downtown becomes more accessible.
“I mean, when we’re sitting here talking about parking, it suggests that there are people coming downtown. Without people coming downtown, there is no parking problem. “So I hope it continues to grow and we need to build parking garages,” he said.
Hewes said Gulfport has adopted alternative ideas used by other cities, especially developing ones, including benchmarking processes.
As for O’Keefe, she said she has until June, when her lease expires, to decide whether to relocate her business.
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