City deals with coronavirus

A Newark parking division employee wears gloves as he takes payments in the lot behind Panera Bread on Sunday.

Newark will suspend its parking lot fees during the coronavirus crisis, officials announced Monday night.

For the foreseeable future, parking in the city’s municipal lots will be free for up to 24 hours. On-street parking meters will allow 15 minutes free to facilitate quick stops to pick up takeout food.

Free parking in Newark has long been a rarity, but the suspension of fees is yet another example of how much has changed in just a week. City council enacted the changes through an emergency ordinance Monday night.

Regular fees will be reinstated when Gov. John Carney lifts the state of emergency.

Both the city and the state have banned dine-in service at restaurants, allowing only takeout, delivery or drive-thru service in an attempt to promote social distancing.

“There’s not going to be much business on Main Street,” Councilman Chris Hamilton said. “Those people need some help, and the best thing we can do is allow people to park and come get their meals or their medicines at Walgreens.”

Councilman James Horning Jr. concurred.

“I think it’s the best we can do for the businesses at this time,” Horning said. “I think it’s a great story, maybe something that will catch a headline and encourage people to come downtown and get some takeout at Newark businesses.”

Free parking in the lots also gives some relief to restaurant employees who would otherwise have to pay for parking, officials said.

As a result of businesses closing, residents being urged to stay at home, and the University of Delaware suspending classes, the demand for parking is reduced significantly, and the revenue it is generating is not enough to justify paying the parking attendants, City Manager Tom Coleman added.

Suspending fees also eliminates the person-to-person contact of parking attendants accepting cash and credit cards from motorists. This week, attendants were wearing disposable gloves to protect themselves.