The McComb city board heard a request from a local lawyer representing the Caboose regarding leasing the downtown parking garage.
Lawyer John Ott presented a request from the Caboose for permission to lease a significant portion of the downtown parking garage, as the city did for 207 Bistro and Blues.
“The Caboose has been a major asset to McComb. ... The community has been good to them and they have been really good to the community,” Ott said. “All we’re asking for is fair treatment under the law.
“The Bistro has a one-year exclusive lease on the top floor of the parking (garage). On behalf of the Caboose, we’d like a lease on the bottom floor under the same terms and conditions.”
Selectman Donovan Hill said there was a huge difference between the situation with the bistro and the Caboose.
“I think a huge difference between the bistro and the Caboose for one is that the Caboose has a parking lot, and two, the bistro does not have designated parking beside public parking outside on the street,” Hill said. “During the operation of business hours, they are limited to where their customers can park.
“The Caboose does not offer valet parking. The bistro does, so during operational business hours, when the streets are filled with other businesses’ customers, the bistro is just simply looking out in the future saying that if the public parking is full, we have guaranteed parking for our customers.”
The board asked Ott if the Caboose would be offering valet parking like the bistro, and Ott said he was unaware of the owner’s plans, adding it was a possibility.
Board Attorney Angela Cockerham said it was in the board’s discretion to lease the first floor of the garage.
“The Auditor’s office also stated that with respect to other businesses, that other businesses have to be treated like-mindedly,” she said. “If you have other businesses petition the board for a space that is something the board would have to take into consideration.”
Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said the board needed to take the matter up in next week’s work session, noting the board has an agreement with the farmers market to use the first floor every Thursday, and if the board were to lease the first floor it would effectively shut down the market.
“That may create a problem because we have the farmer’s market in and on the first floor of the parking garage, and if you got a lease it would eliminate their capabilities of using the first floor,” he said. “I think this is something we have to take under advisement and look at the agreement with the farmer’s market before we can make any decision on the first floor.”
Hill said he was not against the Caboose having spots leased and noted he feared a lawsuit on the board’s hands.
“If we do not give the Caboose the same thing, we are going to be looking at a lawsuit. I am just going to put it out there,” he said. “We need to really consider backtracking or looking how we can work this thing out. It is quite strange that everyone wants to use the parking lot when a new business comes and establishment wants to do valet parking.”
Selectman Shawn Williams asked Ott if the restaurant was having parking issues, and he said it was not. He also asked Ott if they already use the parking garage and Ott said they did.
Selectman Devante Johnson and Williams both said they believed there was more to this request than asking for equal treatment.
“It is more than just equal opportunity in this instance. We did this for the Bistro because no one was using the parking lot upstairs,” Williams said. “They made a request with this board that had nothing to do with anybody. What is the reason for all of this coming back up now? I said from the beginning that there were going to be more coming once we did this and this is what is happening.”
Ott left the meeting after requesting a copy of the Bistro’s lease be emailed to him. Cockerham said she would provide him a copy of the lease.