It's not illegal to park on St. Petersburg Drive, but it could soon be.
In an effort to solve a parking problem that has plagued neighbors of Jack Willie's Tiki Bar and Grill, a popular waterfront nightspot, Oldsmar officials are working on a plan to limit parking on both sides of the street.
"That's great," said Jamie Clark, who lives two blocks from the bar. "I just pray no major catastrophe happens before that."
The bar has taken a few steps of its own to address the problem. Managers have changed a sign offering a "Complimentary Valet" to say "Free Valet." They've also leased another parking lot for use by customers who use the valets and those who don't.
"My valets will be using it to take the cars," Jack Willie's general manager Don Alvino said. "If people want to park there they can park there, too. I also had a sign made that warns people about parking on the street."
City officials recently told the bar, which opened a few years ago under the ownership of New York Yankees pitching guru Billy Connors, to find more offstreet parking.
In a letter to the management of Jack Willie's, Oldsmar community development director Greg Scoville wrote that "the lack of available parking and subsequent use of the St. Petersburg Drive right-of-way has created and continues to contribute to unacceptable traffic safety, fire and emergency access, and nuisance along St. Petersburg Drive."
That's why city officials are working on a plan to limit parking on the street. The north side of the street has four fire hydrants, and the shoulder is too narrow to accommodate vehicles. The south side will also have some no-parking areas.
Last month, city officials determined that there were 55 parking spaces accessible to the public and
10 parking spaces available for restaurant employees. On a Friday or Saturday night, the restaurant averages about 150 people, many who park on the street.
"I think perhaps one of the reasons was that the line was long for the valets," Alvino said. "I do know that with the new lot there should be no problem."
Maybe so, but Scoville sent a letter to the owner of Jack Willie's on June 30 stating that the business was violating city parking requirements. The business, which has recently added a deck, does not have enough parking spaces to accommodate the number of customers, Scoville said.
Scoville told management they had 10 business days to remedy the situation. Those solutions could include stopping valet parking so patrons can park their cars in the lot, removing a fence that limits parking or putting up a sign showing where customers can park.
He also suggested that the boats that are being offered for sale in the parking area be moved to storage.
"The conditions on the site have changed by the erection of the fence that prohibits the use of a lot that was used for parking," Scoville said. "They could remove the fence, which might help. The fence limits parking."
Whatever happens, the managers at Jack Willie's need to act fast. Otherwise, citations may be issued to owners and operators, Scoville said. Failure to comply can result in an appearance before the City Code Enforcement Board, penalties, administrative costs and fines.
Alvino said he's open to ideas. He started the valet service a few months ago because he wanted to make sure his customers had a place to park. He pays $600 a month for two drivers to provide valet service. He says he is considering hiring a third driver. He says he supports a no-parking area on St. Petersburg Drive.
"We just want to make sure things are better," he said.
_ Megan Scott can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or mscottsptimes.com.