(No more) Taco Valet???

Update 9.2.05 This is not a photo of some strange religious icon found on Lower Greenville. It is, in fact, a photo of a street-side sign post on the 5600 block of Alta.

Now you are probably asking yourself - Why is BD posting a pic of an empty sign post??

Simple. Last weekend, there was a City of Dallas Valet Stand sign on this post. This week it is gone. Nandina's formally cancelled their valet parking permit, thereby removing the valet scam artist and his gang working this street for the past two years.

Update 8.28.05 Following on BD's story about this valet scam, the DPD started a full review of valet permits on Lower Greenville. Several stands were inspected on Friday evening for current paperwork, and not a few were found to be lacking the proper permits or insurance.

In the case of 5600 Alta, DPD discovered the scam valets were displaying permits from two restaurants in the area. The first one had fired this service earlier this year, but the owner had no idea they absconded with his paperwork (which has now been revoked).

DPD made the scam artists take down the general valet sign and told them to only park cars for the restaurant's customers

Hampton ignored the No Parking signs at the entrance to Taco Cabana,
using their parking lot without permission for valet parking cars.
Nandina's received nearly a dozen tickets on Saturday night because
the valet parked cars in No Parking zones on Alta Street.

BD has confirmed that while the scam valets were parking cars for the first restaurant earlier this year, they did not have valid insurance (the papers were just damn phony, we are told). This only came to light after a patron's car was trashed by the valet service and they refused to pay for the damages.

Rather than face the music, sources tell BD that Hampton (the owner of the valet service, see photo) went home to Louisiana for about three months. Hampton was not available for comment last evening - he would not get out of his car while his girlfriend and an employee valet'd a few vehicles all evening.

According to City records, Nandina's Asian Tapas holds the current permit for this valet. Their owners are having serious problems understanding how they can be held responsible for the behavior of the valet. They got their first lesson on responsibility Saturday night; DPD issued nearly a dozen tickets to the restaurant because the valet service parked the cars in No Parking spaces along Alta Street. The tickets were not placed on the vehicles, but rather handed to the owner of Nandina's.

There was a new spotter for AJ's Towing Service sitting in a dark pick-up on the backside of the parking lot. Hopefully this person cannot be bribed by the valet service as easily as the last spotter.

Update 8.26.05 - BD has confirmed that changes will be made by Taco Cabana and other interested parties involved in what has become a rolling disaster zone. More details will be posted soon, but BD can offer one piece of advice right now:

Do not valet park your car with the service on 5600 Alta @ Greenville until further notice. Period. End of sentence. Out.

To quote a source at Dallas City Hall - Nice piece of investigative work you got there, BD. But you are checking under your truck for strange packages every morning, right?

BD's been back on the prowl most Saturday evenings getting reacquainted with the garbage that meanders down Greenville Avenue every weekend. Between the smell of the pepper spray and the stench of the crowds, it's starting to look like 1998 again, maybe even worse.

BD has found a whole new kind of garbage floating down the street. A lower class of rowdier patrons, new scumbars and scumbar owners that make the old ones look nice, and parking/valet scams fighting for an ever-dwindling number of parking spaces and patron money.

Parking - or lack thereof - has been the number one problem on Lower Greenville for years. New developments like First Worthing and 1900 Hope Street are taking lots of spaces away during the construction process. Even the US Post Office on Belmont is not immune - five vehicles full of bar patrons parked there last night before heading out for a round or two.

According to BD's sources at City Hall, the valet operating on 5600 Alta (near Nandina's but on the street) had been told to stop operating back in April by the City's PWT folks, but that department was realigned and all the new folks are still trying to figure out what's happening on the streets.

With all the parking lots in the area already called for by other operators, BD was wondering just where are these guys were parking their customer's cars.

After watching the parking lot shenanigans for a few weekends, BD noticed a strange ritual: Cars were being returned to valet patrons right on the TC parking lot, at the Alta Street driveway.

This is so very simple: The valet service has been using the TC lot for parking customer vehicles, all the while slipping a few bucks to the towing service spotter so he will turn his head the other way when the cars go rolling by.

Taco Cabana loses valuable parking spaces, the illegal valet (and the shady towing service spotter) make money hand over fist, and unsuspecting customers risk seeing their cars damaged with no recourse. All this is happening while DPD officers stand watch on Greenville Avenue just yards away, telling BD it's a civil matter.

Let's roll that video

BD hung out early this morning and managed to capture a few interesting Kodak moments on the parking lot that proved his theory.

Kodak moment #1 - A befuddled valet tries to find a customer's car. This should not be too difficult since there are only a handful of parking slots being used

Kodak moment #2 - A different valet, nicknamed FatBoy, retrieves a patron car from one of his borrowed slots on the parking lot

Kodak moment #3 - FatBoy gives the car to the patrons, who have walked across the street from the valet stand to retrieve their car in the TC parking lot entrance.

FatBoy is not very happy with BD; he seemed to keep waving his middle finger at our direction for some reason.

It's butt-covering time

BD spoke to the off-duty sheriff's deputy sitting inside TC, who had no idea about any of this stuff, and would not allow BD to speak to the manager. He also never got off his butt, preferring to stare at the pretty girls coming into the restaurant.

BD spoke to the spotter, who also claimed he had no idea about this issue. But while BD spent ten minutes on the phone with his boss at the towing center, the spotter was huddled with FatBoy on Alta Street trying to figure out what to do about their cars still on the parking lot. At one point, they gave the keys to a customer and pointed to where his car was sitting on the parking lot. He had to get his own car.

BD spoke to the towing company's office manager, but the supervisors were home sleeping and we'll have to wait until Monday for an answer from them.

This should be an interesting conversation. The last time BD was taking pics out here (about three months ago), a different spotter got in BD's face and was not allowing him to get any pics. One phone call and that dude was so fired.

The valet manager on duty, a nice friendly guy named Jeff, told BD he was only filling in for the regular operator, a guy named Hampton, who happened to be out of town. Hampton also had the insurance papers and valet permit with him in his van, which is not quite kosher either (they are supposed to be inside the valet stand).

BD spoke to the TC manager just hours after taking these photographs, and we love his comments (not sic) -

All I take care of is the food and inside the restaurant. The parking lot and cars are not my problem. I don't know what is going on out there and I do not care. The parking lot is taken care of by another company. It's not my problem.

No matter how many ways BD asked the same question, the manager kept insisting that it did not matter to him that the valet company was taking away parking spaces from his customers (at least the ones not being towed away).

This is so over

BD finally tracked down the regional manager for Taco Cabana early Sunday morning. To put it mildly, he was not very happy to hear about BD's experiences on his parking lot. He told us these problems were not news to him, and he has been trying to stop the valet service from using his property for months (this is the same guy who put the hammer on valet services using his parking lot to avoid the No Left Turn at Alta Street).

Telling him that the towing spotter was on the take to the valet service filled in the missing pieces of the puzzle.

For the moment, BD will not disclose the changes that will happen on this parking lot. But suffice it to say that this is all so very over so very soon.

By Avi S. Adelman under Public safety , Lower Greenville