During the seven days since the Boat House Tiki Bar & Grill opened its doors and outdoor seating at the shore end of the Cape Coral Yacht Club pier, city officials have been flooded with calls and emails complaining of overcrowded parking issues.
City Councilmember Jim Burch confirmed Tuesday that he has received a large number of complaints. He also attended a social club's function at the Yacht Club over the Memorial Day weekend experiencing the situation first hand.
"Yes, I've gotten a lot of calls and emails about this," Burch said. "When I went there parking was challenging for sure, but not impossible at that time. Of course, parking always has been an issue for that area, even before the Boat House."
Burch said he is looking into the issue with Parks & Recreation Director Steve Pohlman, who was out of town over the weekend.
The Boat House is offering valet parking for anyone visiting the beach/pier area whether they visit the restaurant or not. The valet service charges $3 on weekdays and $5 on weekends. The city receives a small portion of the fees because it is city property. The Yacht Club area has a total of 374 parking spaces available. Burch also pointed out that downtown Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach both have parking meters.
"It's not a lot of revenue," said Burch. "The logic is that the close-in parking spaces are older and wider than today's standard. With 40 spaces they could valet park 80 cars in the same space. It's not working as it should right now, so it is valet for now and subject to change as we try to work things out."
One citizen complained that participants in the fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis class at the pool have lost parking access and are being asked to walk a long distance, or pay to park, to attend the class, in some cases, that they have attended for years. Many class members are well up in their 80s and on fixed incomes.
One class member said she understood during the renovations that parking would be provided at an off-site lot and patrons of the Boat House would be shuttled back and forth to their cars, which is not the case right now.
"We want to try to maintain access to the pool for the rheumatoid arthritis people," said Burch. "I hear everyone and will work to try to mitigate this so everyone gets what they need out of it."
Burch also noted that the city's agreement with Kearns Restaurant Group, which owns the Boat House, Ford's Garage and other establishments, predates his return to council. During lease agreement negotiations at the time, the city asked the previous restaurant owners of KC's Riverstop and any other entrepreneurs to come up with ideas to upgrade plans for the purpose of enhancing that as a destination feature.
Kearns won the right to remodel and improve the restaurant to its present condition, becoming a waterfront attraction.
"It's a work in progress," said Burch. "We will work something out."