Fort Worth

Crockett Row sees scathing complaints, but West 7th parking problem goes deeper

Parking in the West 7th Street district just got a lot pricier for the unwashed.

Five to 15 cars every Friday and Saturday night are being towed from the parking garages owned by Crockett Row at West 7th, the development’s general manager says.

If you happen to own one those cars, it’ll cost you upwards of $300 to get it out of the impound lot.

A new parking policy went into place in the garages in April, as Crockett Row ratcheted up efforts to make sure those who use the garages are shopping, dining and drinking at Crockett Row tenant spots, not the surrounding bars and restaurants that offer little-to-no parking of their own.

Jordan Mann and his wife Ashley Chitty learned about the new policy the hard way on the first weekend the new rules were put into place. They were towed the night of April 15.

“We were going to Mash’d. That’s where we spent the entire night, and spent $200 on dinner and drinks,” Mann said. “We saw a dog on another patio nearby, asked its owner if we could pet the dog, then went over to Mash’d. Two hours later we walk back into the garage, and the car’s not there. It was towed.”

How did Crockett Row know Mann and Chitty didn’t go straight to Mash’d, which is a Crockett Row establishment? They’re watching you, just like they were watching Mann, leave the garage, on camera and in person. One employee radios another if you’re seen entering, say, Fred’s Texas Cafe or Steel City Pops, after parking, and minutes later, you’re towed.

Even though both (one-story) establishments are in the shadow of Crockett Row’s garages, they’re not on the approved list. Signs in each of the five garages detail the 28 establishments in the five-block area that are approved, and state that anyone parking in the garage must immediately visit one of them or risk being towed.

Max Holderby, Crockett Row’s general manager, isn’t apologizing for the tactic. The five garages under Crockett Row’s control can hold about 1,550 cars, and he says that on any given weekend night, about 3,800 cars pass in and out of them.

But that hasn’t tamed the furor on Crockett Row’s Facebook page.

Several people have left scathing complaints in the review section of the page after their cars were towed.

Holderby says the parking shortage, and the recent towing, are the result of a wider issue involving popular bars in the area that don’t have enough parking for their customers and a city ordinance that allows them to open without dedicated parking. For the record, he also denies that his employees would tow someone’s car for simply petting a dog on another patio before going to one of the approved tenants.

“We have an obligation to make sure there is enough parking for customers of our tenants,” Holderby said. “Crockett Row tenants pay a premium to operate in this area and part of that premium is knowing that their customers will have a parking space when they come to the area. What we’re not obligated to provide is parking for bars who don’t provide their own.”

The Varsity Tavern on Norwood Street, closest to Crockett Row’s south parking garage, is perhaps the best example of what Holderby is talking about. In May, Varsity sold $464,992.99 worth of alcohol, according to public data from the Texas State Comptroller’s office.

That’s the highest total for any bar in the West 7th area, one of the highest totals for any establishment in Tarrant County, and the 37th highest total for any in the state of Texas that month. It’s not uncommon for Varsity to do over $500,000 in monthly alcohol sales.

But Varsity’s customers are left to fend for themselves when it comes to parking, as there are exactly zero dedicated parking spots for the bar. Though some are no doubt being dropped off, or taking Uber, thousands of visitors to Varsity, plus thousands more visitors to places like Reservoir, Durty Crow and Whiskey Garden, which offer minimal dedicated parking, previously looked to Crockett Row’s garages as a viable parking option.

“We sent out word of the policy change before it took effect. We hoped establishments like these would notify their customers,” Holderby said. “Bars like that are obviously fun places that add a lot of energy to the area, they just don’t have the parking spaces.”

In 2006, a city ordinance was passed that granted business owners, if more than 250 feet from a single or two-family home, the final say in how much dedicated parking to provide for that business.

The bars and restaurants outside of Crockett Row realize there is a parking problem as well. Emil Bragdon, owner of Reservoir and Whiskey Garden, thinks he’s on his way to a solution, through a group called the West 7th Restaurant and Bar Association, which he heads.

The association has begun a conversation with the Fort Worth Independent School District regarding use of the lots that serve Farrington Field and Billingsley Field House, near the intersection of University Drive and West Lancaster Avenue.

While Bragdon says he’s confident that an agreement is forthcoming, and the lot could be in use by West 7th patrons as soon as October, FWISD spokesman Clint Bond said the earliest that anything could come to fruition with those lots would be November, after high school football season.

Bragdon says the association would pay the ISD to use the lot, then charge $10 for public parking on weekends.

“Our best play is Farrington Field,” Bragdon said. “I think $10 is fair. It helps cover our expenses and will help cover the uniformed off-duty police to protect the cars and people there.”

For now, though, Bragdon says he’ll continue to park on the side of a street when he comes to visit Reservoir or Whiskey Garden.

“If there’s nothing available either at Reservoir or on the side of the street, I’ll drive under the bridge on Foch Street, and park on the side of that street,” Bragdon said. “I definitely don’t recommend parking in the Crockett Row garages. My phone’s been blowing up about the towing they’re doing, and I know it can be confusing because general clientele sees a garage and thinks, ‘Hey, I’ll park there,’ but you’ve really got to plan ahead on parking when you’re coming out to West 7th.”

Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667, @MCTinez817