New liquor vendor on Main Street stirs parking worries

December 15, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A decision by the Howard County Liquor Board to approve a liquor license for a new restaurant in Ellicott City's historic district has rekindled a debate about whether enough parking spaces exist on Main Street.

The unanimous vote Tuesday night by four members of the board -- a fifth was absent -- will allow Mainstreet Blues to occupy the 2,000-square-foot space vacated by E. C. Does It Cafe in April.

But rival restaurant owners assert that parking spaces are too scarce for another establishment.

"There are so many restaurants down here and not enough parking spaces to accommodate them," said Al Parsons, owner of the Cacao Lane restaurant for 23 years. "The county is ruining the restaurant business down here."

Parking has always been a source of disagreement among merchants along Main Street, which often is congested with vehicles carrying tourists to antiques shops, restaurants and such attractions as the B&O Railroad Station Museum.

While merchants welcome the tourists, the traffic can be a mess, forcing business owners and their employees to compete with shoppers for spaces.

The district has 1,050 parking spaces -- 180 on Main Street and 870 in seven public lots.

Parking rules implemented last year -- and stricter enforcement of one- and two-hour meters -- have helped create more turnover of parking spaces along Main Street and in the district's most convenient lots. That, in turn, has made it easier for shoppers and diners to find a berth during the crowded lunch and dinner hours.

But Pat Patterson, owner of PJ's Bar & Restaurant for 14 years, said weekends -- when restaurants are busiest -- are a nightmare.

"You can't find a spot," he said. "People drive around looking for a spot, and when they can't [find one], they just say goodbye and eat somewhere else. That hurts us."

But Dennis L. Martin, a co-owner of Mainstreet Blues, told the board that he thinks enough parking exists for the 11 restaurants in the historic district.

"I wouldn't have invested in it if I didn't think I could make it," Martin said, referring to the more than $100,000 he and co-owner Vicki R. Cavey have paid for renovations.

At least one restaurant owner said he supports a new restaurant.

"If you look around, you can find a spot," said William Pastino, co-owner of Ellicott Mills Brewing Co., who endured opposition from rival restaurant owners when he applied for a liquor license last year.

"I don't want them to go through what we went through," Pastino said. "He's going to be here. Why not be his friend?"

Pub Date: 12/15/97

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