Waldo’s, Driftwood trying to help solve parking problem
The general managers at the Driftwood Resort and Waldo's Restaurant say they're trying to ease the Central Beach parking problem, not contribute to it.
That's why, they said, they have told their daytime employees to park on the premises or use GoLine's Beachside Circulator, the new, park-and-ride shuttle that runs every 20 minutes – from 5:40 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily – making as many as a dozen stops along a loop that begins and ends at Riverside Park, behind the tennis complex.
Employees whose shifts require them to work past 6 p.m. have been told to use the Driftwood/Waldo's lot or, if no spaces are available, to park in the public lots at Humiston Beach Park or behind the Grind & Grape coffee, dessert and wine bar.
Driftwood GM Jeanne Radlet said her employees, along with those who work at Waldo's, have been told not to park in the public spaces in front of beachside shops, particularly along Ocean Drive and especially during the busier winter and spring months.
That has been a standing request, she said, throughout her 25-plus years at the seaside resort.
"Our employees have been instructed to utilize the shuttle on Saturdays and Sundays, and the vast majority have been doing so since the first weekend it was offered," Radlet said. "The other five days of the week, our employees park on our property in one of our three lots – not on the street in front of any business.
"We have already told our employees that, if we are unable to accommodate them in our lots during the busy winter season, they will need to utilize the shuttle service every day," she added. "We also encourage carpooling, and many of our employees do that to minimize the number of vehicles.
"We recognize the parking problem on the beach and are trying to alleviate it, not aggravate it."
The free, 12-seat shuttle – a joint, public-private venture funded by a $120,000 Florida Department of Transportation grant and $40,000 contribution by the Vero Beach Hotel & Spa – began operations on July 1.
The new GoLine route was created to address the Central Beach parking shortage by encouraging hotel and restaurant workers to take the shuttle instead of parking on the street in public spaces in front of local shops during the business day.
Members of Vero's Beachside Retailers Association say they need those spaces for their customers and have complained that too many hotel and restaurant employees continue to forgo the shuttle and park on the streets, moving their vehicles from space to space when necessary to avoid getting ticketed for violating the three-hour parking limit.
VBRA President Caesar Mistretta, co-owner of the Stringer Gallery on Ocean Drive, met with Vero Beach City Manager Jim O'Connor last month to discuss ways to discourage hotel and restaurant employees from parking in front of the local shops during the business day.
Waldo's GM Lee Olsen said he and Radlet understand the merchants' concerns and are trying to be good neighbors.
"We can't make it mandatory, but we have strongly suggested to our employees that they park in our lots or take the bus," Olsen said, adding that the combined staffs of the Driftwood and Waldo's range from 50 during the summer month to 80 during the winter season. "I know that a majority of my day staff is using the bus."
In fact, in an effort to accommodate employees who are single parents that might need to rush to a child-related emergency, Olsen and Radlet make sure one of their cars is parked in a nearby lot so they can drive employees to Riverside Park if needed.
"If something happens to their kids and they need to go, we'll drive them to the lot," Olsen said. "They won't have to wait for the bus."
Initially, he said, not every employee was excited about taking the shuttle and giving up the freedom of parking close to work, but about 40 of them participated in the late-June test run and "they're fine with it now."
Both he and Radlet expect the shuttle to grow in popularity and usage as the concept catches on and people – the general public as well as Central Beach hotel and restaurant workers – experience its convenience, especially during the winter season when parking spaces become even more difficult to find.
"I think we'll eventually see a lot of people using it, whether they're coming over for lunch or to shop or just to go to the beach," Olsen said. "Not only do you not have to deal with finding a place to park, but if you're spending the day here, you don't have to worry about moving your car so you don't get a ticket."
Olsen and Radlet have embraced the Beachside Circulator from the outset, in both word and deed. He endorsed the concept on his "World According to Waldo's" radio show. Radlet approved using their combined advertising budget for June to promote the new shuttle route.
Olsen's radio commercial publicizing the Beachside Circulator route aired repeatedly on five local stations before the service began, and his radio-show guests included O'Connor and Karen Deigl, president and CEO of Indian River Transit, which operates the shuttle.
Despite those efforts, however, Radlet said some of her housekeeping employees have been "accosted by shop owners" for parking in the public lot behind Grind & Grape.
Similarly, VBRA members have said that Central Beach hotel and restaurant employees are becoming increasingly hostile when merchants ask them to not park in front of their shops.
"There's definitely a parking issue and the shuttle should help, especially in season," Olsen said. "But even if every employee rides the bus, the problem isn't going away. The thing is, people are still coming here to eat, drink and shop. And it's no longer just from mid-January to mid-April. So they're figuring it out.
"We should be grateful we have this problem."
Or as Radlet put it: "What would it be like if we had nobody in those parking spaces?"