Tuesday, April 8, 2014 | 6:15 p.m.
A tiny dirt lot in downtown Las Vegas became ground zero for bewildered vehicle owners who found their cars had been towed while they enjoyed the monthly First Friday celebration.
Downtown resident John Delibos said he and a friend parked in the lot at Coolidge Street and Casino Center Boulevard around 9:30 p.m., having seen a dozen to 20 other vehicles parked there. He pulled into the lot from the south, off Coolidge and an alleyway.
A tow sign is posted there, but how visible it was that night is in question.
Delibos said it was dark, people were around the sign, and it was so low off the ground he didn’t see it from behind the wheel of his BMW as he drove in.
Another sign is behind a large dumpster and others are posted in various spots.
He didn’t see them.
“The whole lot was parked full in neat rows,” he said. “I thought this is organized … someone pulled in next to me within three minutes.”
After eating at Mingo, he walked back to the lot.
“And there were 20 people standing in that empty lot staring at each other in disbelief,” Delibos said. “All the cars were gone … we were all in awe.”
He reiterated he never saw a “no parking” sign.
“If I had, believe me I would not park there; I do not park in red zones, I do not park in no-parking zones and in lots that tell me I can’t park there,” he added. “I’m not looking for free food here.”
Delibos’ story is reminiscent of tales from 2011, when angry vehicle owners confronted tow truck drivers on a Friday night in May. In that case, car owners claimed the lots where they parked were not posted with “no parking” signs.
In this case, Kevin Plencner said he had no choice but to post signs because of a liability issue that arose recently.
Plencner is with Oak Brook Realty and Investments, an Illinois-based company that bought the property in 2008. Until a few months ago, he said, people were free to park in the lot at 932 Casino Center Dr. with no fear of being towed.
Then an incident happened where someone was taking pictures and got injured on the lot, which led to an insurance claim.
“I was allowing people to park there … but put a stop to it and marked everything,” Plencner said, adding that the company plans to erect fencing around the property, or maybe turn it into a paid parking lot.
A manager at Tow Pros, which towed the vehicles, said a business called The Parking Team, responsible for lot maintenance and marking, informed Tow Pros about the vehicles. During the whole of Friday night, he added, Tow Pros towed about a dozen vehicles.
Delibos and the others forked over $315 for the right to retrieve their cars.
“It felt like a slap in the face,” he said.
Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.