Tired of hunting for parking spaces downtown? City-approved valet parking starts tonight

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Serghei Starus

Residents and visitors to downtown Charleston who don’t want to search for evening parking spaces can now take advantage of new city-sanctioned valet services on certain streets.

Starting today, the city has marked off 24 parking spaces on four streets between 6 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. as queuing areas where two bid-winning valet companies — Coastal Valet of James Island and Royal Parking of Raleigh — will accept cars and park them at off-site areas, including parking garages.

The idea originated from suggestions made by the Responsible Hospitality Group, a cluster of downtown business owners, including retailers, hotel managers and restaurant owners, representatives from the College of Charleston and the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to make it easier for more local residents, as well as visitors to metro Charleston, to venture downtown without the hassle of searching for a parking space at night.

The city identified nonresidential areas in historic parts of the city where valet parking was feasible. The four sites selected include:

Coastal Valet won the bid for Radcliffe and Broad streets while Royal Parking was awarded the one-year contract for John Street and the Concord Cumberland lot.

“The valet parking program offers alternatives for those who enjoy coming downtown at night,” Mayor Joe Riley said in a statement. “It is an innovative solution, providing easy access to our businesses and phenomenal restaurants.”

The mayor said the city will evaluate the program and expand it if it is warranted.

Valet companies must provide patrons the name of the parking service, contact information, hours of operation and parking fees. They must have matching uniforms which clearly identify the name of the valet service, and each employee must have a valid driver’s license.

Anyone can use the valet services, and they are not exclusive to a particular establishment. Businesses can enter into agreements with the valet companies to validate customers’ tickets.

That’s the case with Coastal Valet for customers of Oak Steakhouse and O-Ku, where customers can get their tickets validated if they dine at the restaurants, said valet company owner Matt Hall.

“They can’t just go in and have a drink,” he said.

Coastal Valet plans to be on Broad Street seven nights a week, but will start out at Radcliffe on Wednesday through Saturday evenings.

“We are king of easing into it,” Hall said. “We don’t want to get in over our heads.”

Coastal Valet will charge a flat fee of $8 per car, but plans to finish service by 11 p.m.

Royal Parking will charge $10 per car, accepting the last cars at midnight, co-owner Scott Blalock said.

His service will run seven days a week at both locations.

“If we need to adjust our hours, we will,” he said. “We want to bring more locals downtown because they can’t find parking. We take care of them and they can pull away without any problems.”