KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Parking is often at a premium on Cumberland Avenue, known as the UT Strip, which can lead to some unwanted consequences. If you have ever been booted, you know how annoying that can be.
There are warning signs at many restaurant parking lots along the UT Strip that say, “This is a private lot for customers only.” Most people who run into the restaurants are aware of where they can park legally, but what if you can’t see the sign?
A judge will tell you that ignorance of the law excuses no man or woman, but if you disobey the law on the strip, your judgement could be an immobilization device called a boot.
UT freshman Hanna Freeman says she parked her car in the lot at 2121 Cumberland Avenue. It’s a private lot where only two restaurants are opened. Freeman said she assumed it was public parking, but found out it wasn’t.
She discovered two tires on her car had been booted and a sticker was placed under the wiper on her windshield saying the fine was $75 to remove the boot. There is a warning sign at the entrance to the lot, but Freeman says it’s been repositioned since the night she was booted.
“It used to be facing [toward the shopping center] and now it’s facing the road. It would be slightly easier to see now coming in, but prior to them moving it, you could not see it at all because you are focused driving into the parking lot instead of looking at a sign,” Freeman said.
She noted that there were holes where the sign had been before.
“[The man who booted the car] was over here across the street at the Subway parking lot. He said he was just across the street. He came up here and pointed at the sign. He said this was here and there is nothing I can do for you, you need to pay me $75 dollars,” she said.
Short the $75, her mother paid the fine.
“I parked facing these stores. I go out, spoke to my daughter, and said, ‘Where is this sign? I didn’t see it when I came in. I walked over to this sign. It is not where it is right now.,” said Freeman’s mother Emily.
Across the street, there are signs in front of every parking space at another plaza warning customers it’s a private lot for local business. Mellow Mushroom also has warning signs at all its spaces, too. Even now when you pull into the lot where Freeman was booted, you have to make a quick glance to see the sign.
“I think it is legalized thievery,” Emily Freeman said.
Freeman’s car wasn’t the only one booted on March 28. Nearly half a dozen others were. Hanna Freeman says a second sign was posted on another pole a few days after her car and others were booted in the private lot.
WATE 6 On Your Side tried to reach Boot Man, the company that monitors the lot, but the address for their office is a post office box. Hanna Freeman admits she should have know better and has learned from her mistake. Remember, if you visit a restaurant on the UT Strip and park in a private lot, but don’t use the restaurant at that plaza, there are no second chances if your car gets booted.
The City of Knoxville’s Wrecker Service Commission allows private parking lot owners to boot vehicles if there is a violation. The commission’s regulations are very specific on booting and signs are supposed to be posted in a conspicuous location.
From what we observed, Boot Man and the private lot owner did nothing wrong. If you park on the strip at a private lot, look for signs and read them.