Adrian Ruiz used to arrive at the Yellow Green Farmer's Market by 7:45 a.m. to find a parking spot before the crowds would set in. He's a barista for Kay Rico Coffee, one of the Hollywood market's hundreds of vendors. But starting this weekend, Ruiz plans to get to the market way earlier — or else he'll have to pay.
Saturday, September 15, will mark the beginning of the Yellow Green Farmers Market's new $5 parking fee. The market has offered free admission and parking since it opened in 2010. Anyone — including vendors — who parks in the market's north lot will be charged.
As first reported by SouthFlorida.com, the market's north lot has new entrance gates installed with a ticketing system that accepts cash and credit cards.
Vendors were notified of the new fee via a flyer distributed last week. New Times obtained a copy of the notice, which recommends vendors arrive early since parking is on a first-come-first-served basis.
"Obviously we aren't too happy about it," Kay Rico manager Tim Aleman says. "It turns someone's $4 cup of coffee into a $10 cup because they have to pay for parking as well."
Kay Rico is one of the Yellow Green Farmers Market's original vendors. Since building a fan base, the family-owned coffee business has opened a brick-and-mortar on Hollywood Boulevard. But they still have their booth at the market.
"Thankfully, our storefront has free parking and plenty of it," Aleman says. But other vendors can't say the same.
Mark Menagh, general manager for Yellow Green Farmers Market, says the hike is supposed to help vendors in the long run.
"The Yellow Green Farmers Market is paving the large lot on the west side of the tracks from the Tri-Rail station," Menagh says. That west lot, which is now known as 3080 Sheridan St., would allow over three times the current parking Yellow Green offers, according to Menagh.
"The number one complaint from the customers and vendors the past couple of years is that we run out of parking," he says. "As our vendors are small entrepreneurial businesses we decided it was best to charge for parking rather than significantly raise the rates to our vendors to pay for the new parking."
Aunt Jenn's Tea & Spice Shop has been a vendor at the market for five years. Owner Jennifer Fidel acknowledges that the parking fee will come with downsides, but welcomes the fact that down the line it will lead to more parking.
"I've seen my business grow as the market has grown," Fidel says. "The current problem with parking is that there are not enough spaces to accommodate the increased popularity of the market."
The market has grown in popularity to the point where it's been forced to expand over the years. Recently, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay filmed a segment of Master Chef there and praised the space on Instagram.
Market attendees are already sounding off about the new fee on social media.
"They want to start charging five dollars for parking," one Facebook user wrote in their review of the market. "That's not cool." Another took to Twitter: "Five dollars Seems a little excessive, especially if you are destined for one particular vendor and want to just get in and out," they wrote. "Why not by half-hour increments?"
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Free parking is available at the Sheridan Street Tri-Rail station, but attendees would have to cross the walking bridge over the tracks to access the path — 48 stairs up-and-down, in case you were wondering.
Fidel's been doing that walk for a while now to avoid the headaches of finding parking or paying fees.
"It's a bit of a walk, but I don't mind the exercise," she says. This method was recommended by the market's management in its notice to vendors.
"The only downside I can see is that it might be a deterrent during the holidays when holiday shoppers can go to the mall and park for free," Fidel says. "But future sales reports will show if there is a decrease in profits. Only time will tell if it's detrimental to the small business owners."