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BEMIDJI CITY COUNCIL: BDA to revisit new downtown parking rules

BEMIDJI --  The new public parking regulations in downtown Bemidji drew more public opposition at Monday’s City Council meeting.

The regulations were initially put forward by the Bemidji Police Department, the Bemidji Downtown Alliance and the city Public Works Department in response to people leaving their cars overnight and allegedly clogging downtown lots.

The city-owned lots are now closed from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m, whereas before the ban extended only to cars parking for more than several hours at a time without a permit. Opponents say this may encourage drunk driving from people who would otherwise leave their cars downtown while they get a sober ride home.

“I feel like if (bar patrons) go out there and they get a ticket, or if they’re we’re worried they’re going to to get towed, they’re not going to use reason. At 1:45, you’re going to see waters all around the bar; people trying to sober up in 15 minutes, trying to drive home,” one bar employee told the council. “I think we’re just asking for DUIs with this new parking ordinance.”

BDA member Mitch Rautio, who also owns downtown pub Keg ’n Cork, also spoke on the new regulations. He said he would meet today with police to work out a possible alternative to the regulations. The BDA has already met internally to discuss the issue, he said.

“We’ve talked about coming up with some sort of safe ride flyer that the bars will pay for,” Rautio told the council. “We’ll figure out something with the Police Department that will be amenable to everybody...that says ‘This person made a safe choice, leave this car until 10 a.m.’”