UPDATE: Getting the 'Boot' in Old Town BSL
By Cassandra Favre
Apr 11, 2017, 18:11
Thomas Genin presents a check for $480 – the amount of money amassed from car boot fees over the past three weeks – to Cynthia Chauvin, executive director of CASA of Hancock County.
The Blind Tiger owner Thomas Genin on Tuesday said the "main culprit that called for the boycott" of his restaurant "has vanished."
"In a few short days and once enough real information has gotten out, the momentum has changed dramatically," he said. "People look at the parking lot and the signs and the consensus after seeing it is, 'what are people talking about?'''
Last weekend, Genin said his business and family were "wrongfully singled out" and "attacked" when people blamed Genin for the booting of vehicles during Second Saturday's event in downtown Bay St. Louis.
Genin leases an office space from Main Harbor Office on Main Street. His monthly fee includes a parking spot.
One Facebook post invites people to boycott The Blind Tiger and said that Genin is booting cars in the parking lot. That same Facebook post alleges that "they are even booting the handicapped."
Genin and lessee Rod Ward said Main Harbor Office owns 12 spots next to the building. There are nine parking spots, one loading zone and two handicapped.
Genin said the owners plan to re-stripe the parking spaces soon and there will be 10 parking spots, one handicapped and one loading zone.
"The locals that have decided to boycott The Blind Tiger have solicited the wrong people," Genin said. "The Blind Tiger does not have private property, Main Harbor Office does. It's private and we pay for it."
Ward said there are eight businesses operating in the office building. In addition to leasing office space, the renters also pay a monthly fee for parking, he said.
Main Harbor Office is not affiliated with the Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor, Ward said.
"Most businesses in here are not tourism-related," he said. "People park here to use our conference room. When they can't park, we can't live up to our end of the deal."
Ward said the office space is shared by Main Harbor Office, Ellis Realty, Blue Water Bay Casino, Plurality Solutions, AJAX and The Blind Tiger. A marriage counselor uses the office after 5 p.m., Ward said.
Each parking spot is marked with a sign that reads "Main Harbor Office, Monday through Saturday Private Parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Unauthorized vehicles will be towed and or booted at vehicle owners expense."
"We don't enforce it on Sundays," Ward said. "Most of the time, people will leave when they see the sign."
Genin said not many vehicles have been booted in the past couple of months. No one has been booted from the handicapped spot, he said.
For the past three years, Genin said, he has offered to pay the city for larger signs directing motorists to the public parking garage on Court Street.
Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame said Monday there are two signs; one at the corner of Court and Second Street and the other at the corner of Court Street and Beach Boulevard. There used to be two signs directing people to the Longfellow parking garage on Main Street at Second Street and Beach Boulevard, he said. Those have gone missing, Fillingame said.
Fillingame said the city will be looking at upgrading signage.
There are no signs directing motorists to the harbor parking lot, Fillingame said.
"Most people have no trouble finding the harbor," he said.
Fillingame said the parking garage is the "missing link."
"I'm not sure if it's because people don't know where it is or don't want to walk," he said. "We will be looking at bigger sizes of signage and bring more attention to it. It was our hope, too, that most of the business owners would lead their employees to the parking garage and leave street parking for customers."
Fillingame said that future commercial developers may also have to incorporate parking into their designs. In the past three weeks, Genin said, Main Harbor Office collected $480 in boot fees, after paying for boot costs.
On Monday, Main Harbor Office donated $480 to the Court-Appointed Special Advocates of Hancock County, Genin said, which it will continue to do.
Genin said, "the people responsible for the online bashing campaign and malicious attack on The Blind Tiger will pay for it."
He said he has already begun the process to handle those attacks.
Genin said many customers from the Louisiana area have reached out to him about the incident.
"The Blind Tiger has been generous to this community and continues to be very generous to this community," Genin said.
Genin said the public can use Main Harbor Office's parking spots after 7 p.m. every day, which he said is one of the busiest time for restaurants.
"The public can enjoy what we pay for after 7 p.m. If you look at the math, the public has more time per week than the tenants who pay for it. Parking is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed with intelligence," Genin said. "The town is growing and we need to be more forward-thinking. The locals need to be aware."
Genin said Tuesday the person who created the boycott is being investigated: "It was a mean and unnecessary attack on a business that was not related to the booting," he said. "Once the accurate information is put out there, the reasonable people will see this was a malicious attack. I'm not backing down and will find out who it was and pursue it legally."
Genin said he is proud of his staff for coming together. He said he has been explaining to his customers what's been happening and is turning the situation into a positive one.
From now until May 1, customers can order the "Boot" burger for $10, Genin said, and all profits generated from those orders will be donated to CASA.