Word of Mouth

Dining in LoHi? Make sure you follow all posted parking signs

Before I left for the airport a week and a half ago, I parked my car in an empty lot in LoHi that I've been using since I moved to the neighborhood. It was one of the last reliable caches of parking in the area, although in recent months it's tended to fill up fast because of the proliferation of restaurants that continue to draw hordes to the neighborhood -- and the construction projects that promise more restaurants and hordes to come.

All good things come to an end, and I knew it was only a matter of time before business owners on my block put a stop to non-customers parking on that property. Unfortunately, that end came while I was away: I returned yesterday to find a new towing sign -- posted last Tuesday -- and my car gone, locked in car jail in the hinterlands with a $429 bail that had mounted over the course of four days.

Maneuvering the parking situation in my 'hood has long been a struggle that continues to get worse; on Friday nights, I'm lucky if I can score a spot five blocks from my apartment building, which does not have places for all of its tenants. I think LoHi might be the only neighborhood in the whole city where the parking police actually monitor how long your car has occupied its curbside, unmetered but two-hour-only real estate -- which means that I've paid an ungodly sum of money to Denver after the minutes slipped away quicker than expected and I didn't move my vehicle on time. Add to that the fines levied because I didn't read the street-cleaning schedule or fine print that bars you from leaving your car in certain spots overnight.

There's nothing I can really do about it, though I contemplated paying my towing fine with a bucket full of change or a stack of obscenely marked bills. It's the property owner's prerogative to save his lot for consumers, and perhaps I can take solace in the fact that my street-parking transgressions are creating jobs and funding programs.

Unless someone builds a parking garage in the neighborhood, I'll probably just give up and move out of LoHi. I'll miss the wealth of restaurants that are within walking distance, but I can't afford to get ticketed and towed over and over. And I don't really want to begrudge people their nights at Lola, Linger, Williams & Graham, Ale House at Amato's, Masterpiece Delicatessen and everything else that's open or on its way. I get it. Those places are good. The promise of good restaurants is why I moved to the neighborhood in the first place.

My advice on finding parking in the area? Don't. Take a cab. Because the pursuit is going to drive you to drink, and then you shouldn't be operating a motor vehicle anyway. But if you have to bring wheels, obey the signs, no matter how meaningless you think they are. And if you're moving to this area of town -- which, despite the crowds, is admittedly wonderful -- make sure parking is part of the deal. Or ditch your car. You've got everything you need right here.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk