TAMPA -- The Tampa Port Authority will start the new year at Channelside Bay Plaza by extending an old perk: free parking for the next three months. The port has offered Channelside patrons free parking in the next door surface lot along Garrison Street since September. The port now says that policy will continue through March 30. It will not be allowed during scheduled events, however, and overnight parking will still be prohibited. The port said free parking has benefited the handful of restaurants and shops that still remain at Channelside Bay Plaza, businesses that have held on despite continued uncertainty about the retail center's future. In September, the Tampa Port Authority tried to settle that future by signing a $5.75 million deal to buy the building from the bank. But approval of the sale has been held up in federal bankruptcy court and a new lawsuit that a former Channelside suitor filed against the port last month.