That Time I Got My Car Towed at Nabi and the Houston Parking Crisis

Categories: Last Night

Nabisign.jpg
Photo Courtesy Nabi
Oh look, an ideal place to warn about towing.
Getting your car towed in Houston is its own special circle of hell. Last Wednesday night, I met a friend at Nabi and when we finished our meal a little after 10 p.m., we walked the 328 feet (verified by Google Maps) to Anvil for drinks, leaving our cars in the restaurant parking lot. By the time we got back around 1 a.m., both our cars were towed.

We called the number for Ranger Tow on the sign that cites "abandonment" and "illegal parking" as vague causes for towing. Less than an hour later, we were waiting outside a dark, fenced-in complex and escorted into a dark office by an attendant who would not acknowledge me. (He only talked to my male friend.) The fee was $218.30 per car.

When we tried to explain that we had eaten at the restaurant where we were parked and just gone down the street, the attendant told us to talk to the tow truck company, which is separate from the tow-lot company according to him, although they are both named Ranger Tow and under the same address on the receipt.

If I had thought about it, I never would have left my car in that parking lot because I know that tow trucks are a persistent parasite in Montrose. But I was having fun, so I didn't think. Still, Nabi closed at 10:30, so our cars weren't taking any needed space away from other customers. It took the two of us less than three minutes to walk from the restaurant to the bar. Instead of doing that, the situation required that we both get into our separate cars and drive them the (again) 328 feet to our new location and re-park them, effectively rendering one of the busiest nightlife streets in the city unwalkable, and a game of musical chairs.

NabitoAnvil.png
Photo Courtesy Google Maps
I called Nabi a few days later to ask about their tow policy, and owner Ji Kang was very nice. He even offered to have me come in again for some discounted food. "We're not responsible for the towing company," he explained. "Our landlord, who owns the land and the building itself, contracts with them. The policy they put in place is that whenever we close, any car that's on the lot will get towed. We do that because we've had our building vandalized."

It's normal for a bar or restaurant to have a contract with a towing company in case someone parks in front of their dumpster or does in fact abandon their car. But Nabi in particular has given Ranger Tow a free pass to come in and tow any car they see after 10:30 p.m. Weirdly, Kang mentioned that he has also gotten his car towed from the Nabi lot. "I told [the tow company] that I was the owner. They told me to prove it, and I gave them my business card. But I still had to pay because I was parked there." It's like we live in a Kafka novel or something.

Although the restaurant does have a stack of parking permits to offer customers who want to walk elsewhere afterwards, no one told me that I could have asked for one until after it was too late. That's something the restaurant could post on their menu or doors if they know that towing is an issue and want to help. Their strategy may discourage vandals from walking from site to site, but it works on paying customers too.

I called Bobby Heugel to get an OKRA perspective on the situation, and he said this: "It's time that restaurants start to talk about having a more cooperative relationship when it comes to parking. Right now, everyone is coming up with their own solutions independently -- the neighbors worried about street parking, the businesses that need parking space and the customers who want to park. We need community-based solutions that benefit everyone."

Houston is a sprawling city with few walkable neighborhoods, and that is unsustainable as we continue to grow. At some point, we will have to embrace a future with more dense and compact areas, if we want to continue to be livable and successful. We need an inclusive, public-minded solution to the fact that a vibrant and expanding neighborhood like Montrose will only be held back by punishing people for trying to support the retail and restaurants there. The businesses are there and people want to get to them, but the every-man-for-himself approach that forces entrepreneurs to simply buy land and turn it into single-level parking that only serves their own business will hurt Houston in the long run.



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Location Info

Nabi - CLOSED

1517 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Anvil Bar & Refuge

1424 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Music


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17 comments
Joshua Townley
Joshua Townley

It wasn't too long ago that the mayor in chicago said he was offering a generous amount to anyone who would create an app with tow away locations to stop preditory towing. Don't quote me on the city though. I also think that parking strategies need to change. There are way too many towing companies that tow first and ask later. Once they have your car your at their mercy. It's a shame that this industry has come to this. Our problems here in Colorado Springs are not as bad when it comes to parking, but preditory towing companies are on the rise here as well.

La valet
La valet

Always park your car in parking places for safe parking and also your vehicle will be in security watch so that your car will not be stolen or towed.

greenkoi
greenkoi

ride a bike.  problem obviated.

LOL
LOL

LOL 

H_e_x
H_e_x

Yes, and given the efficiency of the Byzantine bureaucracy we the people are up against, I'm sure all complaints will be handed swiftly, with concrete results seen by all. It's not as if tow lots are maligned universally or anything. I'm sure somewhere there exists a tow lot that is clean and staffed by upright citizens that give an aura of professionalism and overall safety.

Tracy
Tracy

Montrose is a case where the city ought to step in and build a public parking garage (as many other cities have done in simile situations). As long as every business must provide its own parking independent of every other business, not only will we continue to see these types of problems, we will waste an absurd amount of land for storing our cars while it could be used for much better purposes. The city's hands off policy with regard to urban planning isn't helping anyone.

MJ
MJ

As a resident who lives only a few blocks from Anvil (and a bunch of other Westheimer bars) we deal with unruly bar parking almost every weekend night.  The people who leave their cars at 11 pm, polite and quiet, are very different from those who come back to their cars at 2 or 3, urinate on our lawns, party around their cars, create huge amounts of noise, and leave their garbage/beer bottles/etc. to clean up.

The root cause of this problem is Houston's lack of zoning and parking requirements. Bars can open without adequate parking, and just assume that the surrounding neighborhoods will absorb their late-night noise and traffic.  In other cities, these businesses would be expected to plan for their parking, but not here.  I think most residents actually really like being close to these great bars such as Anvil.  But these are also actual neighborhoods filled with families who in fact live here--with sleeping babies, maintained yards, etc.  

Nikki
Nikki

How do you think Montrose got to be such a great place to live? Because people like to come spend money here. No business owner would agree with you in telling people not to visit their bar and to just go to Washington. If bars and restaurants want to create a nightlife neighborhood that's a draw for more people and therefore more money, then parking and moving between the venues should be easier.

Nikki
Nikki

I don't even know why I'm bothering to respond but just because I was out at 1am doesn't mean I was drunk. I wasn't, but thank you for your baseless accusation. 

Tanbunz
Tanbunz

Michael Berry is gay.

OK
OK

At the end of the day, a cost benefit analysis should be performed. Pay the $5-$10 or whatever amount for valet/pay parking or assume the risk of a $220 towing fee and glorious trip to the neighborhoods the tow lots are located in. Clearly, you felt that $10 was the worse choice rather than your potential $220 which actually materialized. I would not say Houston has a parking crisis as much as the results of your cost-benefit analysis were completely wrong.

If you think Montrose is bad, try parking in Chicago or San Francisco. Whining about your poor decision may feel good, but if you did not learn your lesson, you very much deserve what you got and I have absolutely no sympathy for you. I really hope you learned your lesson.

OK
OK

how is that logical?

OK
OK

I think hipsters is his code word for "folks that look different than me"

OK
OK

I know right? It's like speeding limits being posted on the freeway and then getting a ticket for exceeding it! Crazy!

Nikki
Nikki

I guess you didn't read the article because at no point did I have to choose between paying $10 and trying to get away with some free illegal parking. I could have parked for free on the street, but I didn't think that it was necessary to move my car when I could just walk the short distance to my new location. It wasn't my brightest move, but only because it should have occurred to me that Montrose is what it is: a clusterfuck of tow trucks who take advantage of a completely disorganized system. 

John Seaborn Gray
John Seaborn Gray

So, let me get this straight. She asserts that the parking situation in Montrose is bad. She provides numerous examples, personal experiences, and quotes from others who know the area well in support of her argument. In summary, she suggests that it would be to everyone's benefit - businesses and customers - to cooperate in order to improve the situation, and to state the rules more clearly and in advance.

Your response is "Parking isn't bad in Montrose and even if it was you shouldn't break the rules."

Well then allow me to retort in an equally eloquent and reasoned manner:1. "Parking isn't bad in Montrose." - Yes it is.2. "Just follow the rules." - The rules are poorly defined, arbitrary, and often simply dumb.

I award you Hall Monitor of the Montrose Parking Panopticon! Use your authority wisely! Your badge and sash are in the mail!

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