Port Jefferson has started a valet parking system that officials and business leaders hope will change the village’s image as a place with great shops and restaurants, but nowhere to put your car.
For $7, diners and shoppers can drop off their vehicles on Wynn Lane, where valets will take them just under a mile to the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School parking lot. Merchants think the system will help visitors spend more time eating and shopping — and less time searching for parking spots and feeding meters.
Port Jefferson’s parking troubles are among the reasons that several village businesses have closed in recent years, said Tom Schafer, president of the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District, which organized the valet program.
Schafer said Port Jefferson has 640 parking spots, not enough for a busy North Shore village that draws thousands of summer visitors. He said visitors sometimes cancel restaurant reservations out of frustration because they can’t park.
“You ask anybody about Port Jefferson, and even without having to ask, they say, ‘Oh, the parking,’” Schafer said. “It seems to have a negative impact.”
Business improvement district officials worked with village and Port Jefferson school district officials to develop the plan. Valets are available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights through Labor Day weekend. Eighty spots at the high school are available for use each night.
In its first weekend, beginning July 14, valets parked about 83 cars, including 51 on Saturday night, Schafer said. He added that the first weekend was a “soft” opening with little advance publicity about the program.
Steve Sands, owner of Pasta Pasta on East Main Street, said he thinks valet parking will make the village’s downtown shopping district more attractive.
“There’s been a shortage of parking. It’s like that in a lot of villages,” Sands said. “We’re hoping it frees it up and makes it easier for people to get parking in town.”
Schafer said he could not estimate revenue in the program’s first year. About 25 percent of earnings will be paid to Hauppauge-based Advance Parking Service, which is providing six valets.
The remaining 75 percent will be split between the village’s parking committee — to pay for development of new downtown parking spaces — and the school district, for the use of its lot.
School Superintendent Paul Casciano said district officials hope their share of the revenue will cover the cost of resurfacing the parking lot when the summer is over, which should cost no more than $10,000.
“We have available spots,” Casciano said. “It’s part of being cooperative with the community you serve.”
The valet system is an experiment, for now. If it succeeds, officials said they plan to bring it back next year.
“We have new apartments coming in. The future is going to be bright,” Schafer said. “The only problem is that if you have new people coming in, you have to have someplace to park.”
Port Jefferson’s valet parking
Schedule: Each weekend through Labor Day.
Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays; 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays.