Reilly pushes tightening noose on ‘worst actors’ in valet parking

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Chicago would throw the book at the “worst actors” in the valet parking industry — companies that operate without a license and those using counterfeit pay-and-display parking receipts — under a crackdown advanced Wednesday.

Five years after rewriting the rules governing valet parking, downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) convinced the City Council’s License Committee to raise the bar once again.

This time, Reilly’s target was rogue companies that engage in valet parking without any city license, either to avoid the fee or because they don’t have the off-street parking to get a license.

Under Reilly’s ordinance, unlicensed valet parkers would face a fine of at least $3,000, as much as $5,000 and/or up to six months in jail.

“Typically, these are the worst actors in the industry because, if you don’t have a valet license, it’s very likely you don’t have the required insurance minimums to protect people. You don’t have a garage lease or off-street parking lease in effect,” Reilly said.

Noting that he has a letter of support for the crackdown from one of Chicago’s largest valet companies, the alderman added, “Established valet operators typically do not violate these sections and would like to, frankly, legislate out the lowest common denominator — the worst actors in this industry that, frankly, reflect poorly on everyone.”

Reilly’s ordinance also tightens the legislative noose against a relatively new scam: valet companies that have found a way to create phony pay-and-display parking receipts to park as many of these cars as possible at metered spots.

“This is actually a deceptive practice that already faces pretty strict fines. What we’re simply doing here is, if you’re caught counterfeiting receipts, you also would then forfeit your ability to provide valet parking services [in Chicago] for one year,” Reilly said.

“And if you have three separate offenses [of any kind], you also lose your privileges for one year. Three strikes and you’re out.”

Reilly said the ordinance also includes a “consumer benefit.”

“If your car is parked with a counterfeit receipt, this actually holds the valet operator accountable for that ticket rather than the unknowing customer,” he said.

Valet parking abuses have been a steady target during Reilly’s seven-year tenure as alderman.

Five years ago, he proposed an off-street parking requirement of 25 percent, then softened it under pressure from Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and his colleagues in the Illinois Restaurant Association.

At the time, there were rampant complaints about valet parking companies that damage vehicles, monopolize metered spaces and park cars illegally, saddling unsuspecting motorists with tickets.

The 2009 crackdown further required valet companies to obtain $1 million worth of insurance for both liability and property damage. Fines for allowing employees to park cars without a valid license were increased dramatically — from a $100 minimum and $500 ceiling to at least $500 and as much as $1,000.

Last year, Reilly was back on the warpath against valet parking companies that damage cars, park illegally, gobble up street spaces and tie up downtown traffic.

“I have a special place in my heart for crappy valet parking companies,” the alderman said then.

The measure is expected to be voted on by the full city council at next week’s meeting.

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