Those shopping in downtown Lewes can enjoy free morning parking through Labor Day.
Mayor and city council extended the free parking window at the request of the merchants. Council had originally voted to offer free morning parking through June 15.
“I think we should do whatever we can for our merchants,” said Councilman Dennis Reardon. “And if this is what they would like us to try, then I’m in favor of it.”
Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait wondered if it might be better to offer free downtown parking the entire day, rather than just the morning hours.
Betsy Reamer, executive director of the Lewes Chamber of Commerce, said experience has taught them that free parking is a bad idea because employees of the businesses end up using the spaces their entire shift.
“[Free parking] doesn’t have any turnover,” she said. “The merchants at their last meeting said they were in favor of having the meters.”
Despite the effort to encourage people to come to town, Reamer said, many are still hesitant.
“If you’ve been on Second Street and the side streets, you’ll see lots of empty parking spaces throughout the day,” she said. “Part of that is people are still unsure about coming out.”
She said it’s likely to be a difficult summer for many merchants.
“It’s a very short window of opportunity for them,” she said. “And the gesture from the city to able to promote coming into Lewes and shop for free from 9 a.m. to noon is something that is very much appreciated.”
With only three restaurants offering lunch service, Reamer said retailers have seen less foot traffic.
“It’s a very symbiotic relationship between people coming to dine and then shopping or vice versa,” Reamer said.