The City Council on Tuesday night approved a plan in which downtown restaurants can pay to bag parking meters so that valet parking can be provided for their customers for those slots.
The restaurants would pay $15 per meter per day. Usage periods would be after 4:30 p.m. when the meter patrol goes off duty and weekends and holidays.
But Councilman Jack Benson said he feared it would make it harder for "the rank and file John Doe" to find a parking spot downtown with spaces being utilized by the restaurants.
Steve Leach, public works administrator, said he felt only a few restaurants would be involved in the program and they would only take a few spaces each.
Public works officials said similar programs are in operation in places like Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle.
Councilwoman Carol Berz questioned whether a few "special interest groups" had been requesting the service. Mr. Leach said two or three restaurants indicated an interest. He later said a valet service was also involved in the request.
Kim White, who heads the River City Company, said she is all for downtown valet parking.
She said it would signal that "Chattanooga is the cosmopolitan city that we are."
She said she recently took advantage of valet parking at a restaurant downtown, noting that her husband has a bad back. She said $5 was added to her restaurant bill for the service. That valet parking was apparently in a downtown parking garage or surface lot that has an arrangement with the restaurant.
Mr. Leach suggested that Ms. White have an email blast to downtown businesses to get their response to the idea.
Councilwoman Deborah Scott wanted to try the idea for six months, but that was voted down.