More Great PR…It is a Target Rich Environment


More Great PR…It is a Target Rich Environment

Big Mama is closing down. Her famous eatery is not more in Pittsburgh. Great headline ” Big Mama Closes Cuisine, Blames Pittsburgh Parking.”

We broke the story here. A number commented on that blog. I predicted that after the story hit the papers, the city would jump on the problem, and would work out a solution. The major issue, I think, was deliveries, and citations on her delivery trucks. Oh well, I was wrong. The city held the line, and now we get another raft of headlines. Remember one Aw S**t cancels out 10 Attaboys.

It seems like many in our industry go out of their way to generate bad PR. Isn’t there someone out there who can offer a way that Pittsburgh might have kept its dignity and at the same time helped Big Mama out and generated a positive headline? Brandy?


PS – Yes, I’m sure it’s possible, maybe probable that Big Mama is closing for other reasons and was looking for a scapegoat. That doesn’t help our PR problem.

John Van Horn

John Van Horn

4 Responses

  1. Where is her responsibility as a business owner to check all codifications pertaining to her business? These regulatiosn did not pop up overnight. Do you think it would be this bad if building code shut her down because her sprinklers were not correct and she could not afford to fix it?
    You can’t tailor parking regulations to a specific business in a urban setting like that.
    Onorato handled the situation perfectly. He provided cold hard facts about the amount of tickets issued during her battle.
    Seems like Big Mama expected things to change easily. The sustainablity of her business is her business and not the responsibility of the PPA. If you want to change something, get support, offer a solution and go to City Council and plead your case.
    This kind of PR is unavoidable sometimes.

  2. I’ve been called out! I agree with JVH in principal, because retail and restaurant businesses on our main street certainly have a tough go of it. I disagree with Charley – I believe that you can and you should tailor parking regulations to specific businesses if it makes sense. I’m not going to install a loading zone or 2 hours free parking right in front of one business, but I do listen to business owners and work with them within certain parameters.
    What we’ve done is the following:
    1) We don’t put loading zones on the streets directly in front of the businesses – that parking is too valuable for loading/unloading.
    2) We DO put loading zones on the side streets just off the main drag, and we do it on demand. We’re constantly looking at each block to re-evaluate loading zones. If a business moves out, we see whether or not the loading zone is needed based on whether other businesses use it or not. If they don’t, out it goes.
    3) We allow (unofficially) vehicles to be parked for 15 minutes in the alleys behind the businesses. These alleys are all signed and ordinanced for no parking and will stay that way, but we talk with all the business owners and employees to clue them in on the secret.
    It is unrealistic to expect businesses with loading/unloading needs to ask their vendors to park 2 blocks away. First, they won’t do it and second, if we force them to, they won’t deliver to the business. If that’s the case, then the business goes under and that’s not good for anyone.
    We’ve found that suppliers don’t abuse the privileges. They’ve got other deliveries to make and no reason to hang out longer than it takes to unload their goods. I can’t remember the last time we had a single complaint from a business owner about suppliers not being able to park.
    Business employees and owners DO abuse because it’s easier for them to park in the alley or loading zone if they’re in a hurry. Especially pizza delivery drivers. We void a lot of tickets, but after a certain point when they’ve shown they will not change their behavior, we “throw the book at them,” in JVH’s words. Some of them change, some of them see it as a cost of doing business.
    All the above said, business owners that leave downtown often blame their lack of success on parking, whether it be paid parking or lack of space, but that’s the way people are and I don’t generally buy it. I get calls from city council members and the press when this happens and since I’ve already worked with the business owner, I can give a compelling rebuttal that shows we did everything we could. There isn’t ever a follow-up story bashing parking and justifying the business owner’s reason for leaving.

  3. I’ll make the same comment today as I made on the original story;
    The problem with most people trying to open a “Mom and Pop” businesses in a downtown is that they aren’t “business” people in the same sense that someone opening a McDonalds or a PF Changs is. Mom and Pop’s don’t have a manual or a check list to work off of to help them make sure they address issues like loading zones, parking, trash disposal, etc. If the issue isn’t required as part of the permitting process then odds are they aren’t aware of it unless they happen to have previous experience with opening businesses in a downtown setting.
    The City can argue that the signs were in place prior to her opening and she should have been aware of the parking limitations, and they would be right. She can argue that the City knew she would be doing deliveries and other services that would require close parking and shouldn’t have issued her the permits without ensuring those issues were covered, and she would be right. This isn’t about right or wrong, it’s like you said it’s about making it work for everyone.
    At the end of the day somebody has to take responsibility for making sure a business has all their i’s dotted and t’s crossed before they open. I don’t think anybody wants to see more or bigger government. Maybe a simple solution to avoiding situations like this in the future would be for the city to make available a simple checklist for anyone that is thinking of opening a business, a checklist that could include the basics like making sure you have considered parking at the location where you are planning to open. My guess is you could download one off the internet for free, so there shouldn’t be any great cost involved.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. We will be looking forward for whatever their decision maybe in the future to come back or something.

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