Local business owners hope potential changes to Birmingham’s parking ordinances help predatory towing

Hearing on Birmingham towing ordinance
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 10:34 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Parking pains are growing in downtown Birmingham. The city has gotten hundreds of complaints over the years from residents, visitors, and local business owners about predatory towing. Now, city leaders told WBRC that they are working to upgrade the city’s towing ordinance.

“I probably drive people up to that tow lot four or five times a week,” Neville Baay, co-owner of El Barrio said.

It’s usually a full house at El Barrio on 2nd avenue N., but owner Neville Baay said customers usually struggle to park and he’s often getting complaints about towing.

“There is this overly aggressive approach to towing people,” he said. “Nine times out of ten, people’s response is ‘hey man, food was great, we really enjoyed coming here, but this sucks, and we’re not coming back’.”

There’s street parking in front of the restaurant, and a lot next door, but the lot isn’t affiliated with the restaurant. Baay said there’s often problems and discourage customers from parking there.

“We have had people park, pay, and because there is a lag in the app in what the drivers see, people will get towed,” Baay said. “They think they are following the rules. They think they are doing everything properly, but because the trucks are continuously rotating through, as soon as they see someone, they just pull it.”

“We are abundantly aware that there is a problem,” Birmingham City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn said. “We’ve been hearing the complaints.”

City leaders said they have been discussing the issue for months and now are holding a public engagement meeting to hear from citizens.

“It’s an opportunity for folks to hear about changes that we are thinking about making to ordinances that apply to privately operated parking lots and to how towing companies operate,” O’Quinn said. “There will be an opportunity for folks to offer feedback if they want to comment.”

Right now, it’s $160 cash to get your car from the tow lot, and even if it was an app glitch, you still have to pay.

“I think signage and hours are a problem,” Baay said. “ I think the aggressiveness of the towing companies leaves it in an area that is very frustrating and upsetting.”

The public meeting and presentation of the potential changes is set for June 7th at Boutwell Auditorium from 6pm to 7pm. O’Quinn said to arrive at 5:30 if you’d like to sign up to speak. He said any potential new ordinances will still have to go through council committee and a public hearing before anything changes.

Get news alerts in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store or subscribe to our email newsletter here.