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Salon owner says downtown Gulfport parking limits are hurting her business

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) – You can’t miss the signage. Parking is limited to two hours in downtown Gulfport Monday through Friday.

The ordinance has been in place for years, but now the city is stepping up enforcement.

That’s making life and business hard for Hannah O’Keefe, owner of 13th Street Salon and Barber.

“Sixty to 80 percent of our business is done with color clients,” she said. “All color clients services take longer than two hours.”

O’Keefe has been in a verbal sparring match with the city for months, but it’s getting more intense.

“Several of our clients have gotten tickets recently for parking here longer than two hours,” O’Keefe said. “We can’t continue to have conflict with people outside and the stress of watching the widow.”

She said she’s done what she can to maintain clients, but it’s becoming unsustainable.

“I try to take the $25 fee off of their ticket so that it doesn’t inconvenience them to the point where they won’t come back,” she added.

From the city’s perspective, the law is not perfect, but it’s fair.

“By having a rotation, having a time frame on this, it allows more people more access to businesses downtown particularly those who need to park close by,” Mayor Billy Hewes said. “It’s a balancing act, and we’re doing the best we can.

“We try to make our downtown as accommodating as possible, and we take a holistic approach to it,” Hewes added. “So, if one business is inconvenienced, we’ll try to moderate or modify where we can. But sometimes when we do that, we create challenges or problems for other businesses as well through that cure. So, it’s a balancing act and we’re doing the best we can. But the fact of the matter is not a new ordinance that we put in place. It’s something that’s been around for a while and it seems to work for the most part.”

For other businesses, like Downtown Bistro, the ordinance is a must.

“There are several bars and restaurants in the area that need that regulated turnover and for traffic flow consistent throughout the day,” said owner Brian Ladner.

He added it’s a good problem to have as downtown becomes more of a destination.

“I mean, the fact that we’re sitting here talking about parking dictates that there’s people coming downtown. Without having people come downtown, there’s no parking issues. So, I hope it continues to grow and we’ve got to build parking garages,” he said.

Hewes said that Gulfport continues to study alternative ideas used by other cities, particularly those that are growing, including metered processes.

As for O’Keefe, she said she has until her lease is up in June to decide if she will relocate her business.

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