LEBANON, Tenn. (WKRN) — The parking lot is full on a Thursday morning and that’s all Steven George’s customers can talk about when they visit Seven Cedars Butcher Block in downtown Lebanon.
“Thursday, Friday, Saturday we’re getting between five to seven phone calls a day,” George said. “[They say] we pulled through, we couldn’t find a spot and we’re not able to stop in today.”
George’s biggest struggle since opening the shop has been the parking.
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“People use it as a park and ride or they come and stay at the restaurants or the brewery for three, four, five hours at a time,” he said. “So that really congests the parking lot for anybody that’s trying to do that in and out.”
So George paid to get his own timed parking signs, which he said were beginning to work. “Our volume of people shopping during the lunch hour and the dinner hour which is usually when the parking lot is packed went way up, which is unusual, but it was because parking had opened up for them.”
Because the lot is owned by the city, George was forced to take the signs down.
This issue isn’t just impacting him, but Harper’s Books store owner Rob Kamer too. “The number one complaint I get from people is there’s not a place to park.”
Kamer’s bookstore has been downtown since 2019. He said it’s hard for his customers to find parking in front of his store. “They’re not going to want to cart two to three big boxes of books to bring in for trade—they’re going to wait to get a close parking spot, and those close parking spots are very rare.”
The city recently broke ground on a new parking lot nearby, adding 24 new spaces to help with this problem. But George feels like it still won’t be enough to fix these issues impacting downtown businesses.
“If we can have some form of time on some spots broke up really would eliminate a lot of the issues me and a lot of the other shop owners [are] facing,” George said.
News 2 spoke to Mayor Rick Bell who said they are looking at ways to improve and increase parking in the area.
According to Bell, they weren’t able to put a parking garage in the new parking lot they purchased because that area is not big enough for a parking garage to operate correctly—and the property lies in a floodway so they can’t build a structure.
Bell said that piece of property limits what they can do with it. He added that there have been conversations with private property owners about trying to build a parking garage close to downtown.
The city has also looked into limited-time parking spots and other options, but Bell said their main focus is getting more parking spaces for residents.
The city currently plans to keep parking free and is working to try and make sure businesses downtown continue to thrive.