Campanello's Italian Restaurant is weary from what its owner says has been a battle with the Cincinnati Fire Division over firefighters taking up parking spaces with their personal vehicles.
The spaces in question are in a parking lane in the middle of Central Avenue, designated with a sign as space for authorized fire vehicles.
The restaurant is near Fire District 1, which is at the corner of Fifth Street and Central Avenue downtown.
Matt McGowan, manager of Campanello's, said the lane is being used by fire department employees' personal vehicles forcing authorized fire vehicles to park in meters outside of the restaurant.
"We are losing business because customers can't find a place to park," McGowan said. "The meters we fought so hard to get from the city are useless to our customers when fire vehicles are using them."
McGowan said the restaurant's fight is not with firefighters but with the division's administration.
Parking problems outside the restaurant became an issue last year when spaces in the area started to diminish, he said.
Twice last year, owners of the restaurant went before city council to raise the issue and ask for help, he said.
The result was 11 new parking meters near the restaurant.
But now, McGowan said, it all has been for nothing because customers are forced to park in the authorized fire vehicle lane for lack of other parking.
He said some customers are getting ticketed when they park in the fire lane, while fire department employees' personal vehicles are not.
"The police and the meter maids never used to ticket any cars in this lane because they said it wouldn't be fair to ticket some and not ticket city employees," McGowan said. "But all that changed a couple of weeks ago when a meter maid began selectively ticketing cars that were not city employees'."
McGowan said the meter maid told him she was instructed to ticket the vehicles.
Chuck Cullen, parking superintendent for the city's parking services, said it is up to the fire division to decide which vehicles were allowed to park in the lane. He said parking services could only enforce parking through complaints because there was no way for them to know which vehicles were authorized.
"We received a complaint that unauthorized vehicles were parked in that area," Cullen said. "They cited some cars with violations."
He said the fire department specified which vehicles were not authorized to park in that lane.
Mose Demasi, fire district chief of operations, said the only employees allowed to park in the lane are captians or district chiefs. Occasionally, some secretaries park there when the back lot is full, he said. The lane, he said, was established to help deal with the district's parking shortage.
"There are times during a shift change when there's nowhere to put the cars," he said.
McGowan said that if the restaurant continued to lose business because of parking, the restaurant might relocate.
"We have been pumping money into the economy for a long time for the city to treat us with such disrespect," he said. ©