NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — We know it can be tricky, and often expensive to find a place to park in downtown Nashville. For one man, parking for a nice dinner cost him an extra $50.
It was supposed to be a special night.
"I was coming down for a birthday," Steve Jones recalled.
Jones and his partner were having dinner in Germantown. They parked in an alley just around the corner from the restaurant. But when they got back to his car after dinner, things suddenly took a turn.
"I come around and say, 'Oh, he’s booted and I am booted and the person in front of me is booted,'" he said.
Jones said all three cars parked along the same curb now had boots on their front tires, put there by the company Nashville Booting.
"When you parked there, did you think there was any reason you shouldn’t be parking there?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Jones.
"No! Not at all," he replied emphatically.
There are no signs on the side of the street where he parked that say no parking. The curb is not painted red nor is it marked in any other way that indicates parking is not allowed there.
"And I say, 'Why am I booted?'" Jones described his conversation with the booting company employee. "And he said, 'You can’t park here. You can’t park on a cutout.'"
The booting company said because the road narrows, if cars park there, then two cars can't pass through at the same time. The company said drivers should know that and should know they shouldn't park there.
We asked Billy Fields, the Director of Transportation and Licensing with NDOT, about Metro's booting rules.
"You can boot for any reason if it’s on private property," Fields explained.
Fields' office regulates the half dozen or so licensed booting companies in Metro including Nashville Booting.
And the other rules?
"They’re pretty simple. If you’re going to boot in a lot, you’ve got to have a sign put up. You have to respond within an hour to get the boot removed. You can only charge $50 for the boot," Fields said.
Booting companies must have a sign at the entrance of a lot or parking area, warning people they could be booted there. It's supposed to be clearly visible when you drive in.
Nashville Booting did not have a sign where Jones' car was booted.
Fields told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that he's going to make sure the company adds one.
We showed him where Jones had parked when he was booted and asked, "What do you see here now that tells you not to park here?"
Fields replied, "Nothing. No."
But Fields said his hands are tied, that the city cannot require Nashville Booting to do anything else here including marking the curb or hanging a no parking sign because the alley where Jones parked is private property.
Jones wondered why the company wouldn't want to add one or two "no parking" signs or even just paint the curb red.
"If you’re really concerned about safety, just do one small thing that will tell people don’t park here," Jones suggested.
We repeatedly reached out to Nashville Booting. They did not respond to our requests for an interview.
We did find that the Better Business Bureau gives Nashville Booting an "F" grade because of a pattern of complaints from drivers about billing, collection issues and customer service. Many people have said they were booted when they should not have been.
Fields said that because the area did not have a sign warning drivers that they could be booted, then Jones's car should never have been booted. He added that Nashville Booting really should refund Young's $50 that he had to pay to get the boot removed.