In late 1989, my family and I decided to invest in a classic, old restaurant in downtown Buffalo. Sixteen years later, I decided that enough was enough, and I shuttered my last restaurant.
We tried our darned best and spent a ton of money on upgrades, menus and advertising, but we eventually lost.
For all of those years, we fought a daily battle with the Parking Violations Bureau and the parking lot owners, who seemed to raise their rates every six months.
We fought against abuses of parking by government employees and handicapped-permit holders, who used to park all day at meters at no risk.
We went to the powers that be, only to be told that they were just following the rules. The parking commissioner, who I grew up with, told me he was following the mandates of the Common Council. The Common Council told me that the mayor was the problem, hiding behind the commissioner. As a result, things stayed the same.
Some of my loyal customers (Common Council members included) and I hashed over the events on an almost daily basis. Feeling absolute frustration, I embarked upon a letter-writing campaign to The News. After three or four letters were published, things started to change.
The results are evident in the meter limits that Council Member Mark Coppola enacted (almost six years ago, not three, as Donn Esmonde reported) and new restrictions on handicapped parking.
During this period, all I wanted was a fair playing field for all of us in business in Buffalo. That goal was never reached.
How do I know? It has all come to roost now that the crybabies from the rest of the city tell me that for the last 16 years, their customers parked on their terms.
The Parking Bureau officers must not have pounded Elmwood Village, the Hertel businesses or other areas like they beat us all day every day. For if they had been fair in their enforcement, the police officers now enforcing parking laws would not be getting all of this horrendous press and media coverage.
I could go into more detail, like telling patrons of my restaurant not to put money in the meters after 5 o'clock because of the misrepresentative parking signs on poles and meters. Or how I was boycotted by the investigators and employees of the state attorney general's office because I pointed out that they parked illegally all day and didn't get ticketed. There are many other instances of abuse by the Parking Bureau, but neither time nor space will allow.
Suffice it to say I hope this gets printed because I can finally speak without fear of damage to my business. That has already been done, thanks to some very petty people who occupied City Hall for most of the past 16 years.
Joseph Augello, of Buffalo, used to operate a restaurant near City Hall.