Beverly Hills restaurant owners should be held responsible if employees of private valet parking companies violate parking and traffic laws, say city officials who want to revise municipal code sections relating to valet services.
A proposal by the city Traffic and Parking Commission would require the 32 restaurants in the city that use private valet services to obtain a permit that could be withdrawn if their valets disobey city laws.
"It would make the restaurants responsible (for valets) and give them more of an incentive to enforce the law on violators," said Mark Scott, the city environmental services director.
Lt. Jim Smith, city traffic division commander, said that Beverly Hills police have cited private valets for parking patrons' cars on public streets and for driving outside of assigned routes to off-street parking lots.
Robert N. Tierney, city parking operations manager, said many of the violations occur during peak dinner hours, between 6 and 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Use Metered Spaces
The valets sometimes park cars in metered parking spaces instead of in off-street lots that restaurants are required by law to provide, Tierney said. Valets also illegally back cars down streets rather than driving around the block to park a car, he said.
Many of the parking violations and other abuses by valets take place on parts of North Camden Drive and South Beverly Drive, where several restaurants have opened in recent years. Half a dozen restaurants in the 200 block of South Beverly Drive share two or three private lots that fill up at peak periods, Tierney said.
Another part of the problem, he said, is that the restaurants on South Beverly are very popular and there aren't enough valets to handle the volume.
Valet parking companies must obtain a permit from the Traffic and Parking Commission. A set amount of off-street parking is assigned to each restaurant and valets are required to follow a prescribed route to the designated parking lot. The permits must be renewed annually.
Few Have Own Valets
Tierney said few restaurants provide their own valets and instead hire a private valet service. Of the city's 35 valet permits, all but three have been issued directly to private valet services, Tierney said.
In addition to obtaining the city permits, private valet services are required to provide insurance coverage for their employees. Individual valets must obtain an identification card from the Police Department. Police check the driving records of each applicant and look for any criminal history because valets are often trusted with house and other keys when parking patrons' cars, Tierney said.
Kari Ellis, general manager of Ruth's Chris Steak House, 224 S. Beverly Drive, said valet parking is important to her business and it is regarded by patrons as part of the overall dining experience. Many of her customers are wealthy, in their 60s and 70s and want to drive up to the front of the restaurant, leaving the parking to someone else.
"We have a well-established clientele and they expect it. They expect the door to be opened for them," Ellis said. "We couldn't do without the valets. People would have to park and walk . . . and they won't do that. Not in Beverly Hills."
City Parking Structure
She said that instead of forcing restaurant owners to police the valets, the city should allow the Beverly Drive restaurants to use a city parking structure on the same block.
George Zahab, president of Party Parking Valet Service, based in Beverly Hills, said that some of his employees have been cited in the past for parking and moving violations. But, he said, sometimes the street in front of a restaurant is so crowded with cars that valets have to double park or park at a meter until they have a chance to drive to the off-street lot.
The City Council and the city Traffic and Parking Commission will discuss proposed changes in the city code at a joint meeting Tuesday.