At the Free Times office, we have a bit of a running joke, where we wonder which entity is more watchful: The all-seeing Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings saga, or the City of Columbia's seemingly omnipresent parking meter enforcement team.
It appears that you won't have to worry about a fine from the latter for a bit.
The city announced Monday that payments will not be required at on-street parking meters until further notice. Columbia also is raising the gates on all of its city-owned garages. Both changes are in effect until further notice.
The city will continue to enforce handicapped spaces, fire lanes and no parking zones.
In a release, the city says the move is to "support efforts of social distancing and our entire business community" during the ever-expanding coronavirus outbreak.
As reporters traveled through the city at lunchtime Monday, parking availability was not an issue in the Capital City, with large numbers of downtown spaces that would normally be occupied at the start of the week sitting vacant.
It's a sign of unusual times in Columbia and South Carolina, where life has shifted dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis. On the order of Gov. Henry McMaster, bars and restaurants across the state have shuttered dine-in services, and K-12 schools are closed. Students will not return to the University of South Carolina's Columbia campus this spring, and the Capital City is on a nightly curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. And many businesses across the city have shifted to a remote working model.