NEW CASTLE — An ongoing dispute between two neighboring downtown businesses has come to a fever pitch over the use of Jersey barriers in the parking lot between them.
Both DON Enterprises, which owns 333 E. Washington St., and Matt and Gary Blakely, co-owners of 2 Brothers Downtown Gaming at 341 E. Washington St., have accused the other of violating parking guidelines in the lot between the two. Both have accused the other of towing cars away. Currently, Jersey barriers, placed by DON, run through the lot to separate parking for The Corner Stone restaurant, which operates out of DON’s building at 333 E. Washington St.
Matt Blakely, who is the principal business owner of the gaming parlor, first addressed his concerns over the barriers to New Castle City Council on Dec. 8 meetings. He believed the barriers were unlawfully placed by DON and prevented more customers from parking at his parlour. Gary Blakely, who owns the building, said the business has gone from having around 20 to 30 customers a day to fewer than 10 a day, and that it could be shut down in three months.
“We got nobody here,” Gary said. “We’re taking money out of pockets.”
At last Tuesday’s caucus meeting, DON attorney Robert DiBuono said DON took responsibility for the barriers and not The Corner Stone or owner Lucas Leventry, who simply pays rent to DON for the building space. DiBuono said DON owns the lot.
“They are protecting the lot that is owned by DON Enterprises. Mr. Leventry needs parking spaces for his restaurant,” DiBuono said. “DON would be doing a disservice to its own tenants if it didn’t secure parking spaces. There are parking spaces in the back of 2 Brothers, (plus) public parking.”
DiBuono, along with a news release on DON’s Facebook page, claims the dispute started when customers for 2 Brothers started parking in the lot and 2 Brothers attempted to have vehicles towed from the property.
The Blakelys deny that accusation and say it was DON who called to have parlor customers towed.
“There is plenty of room for everyone to park. Don Enterprises wants to come out looking like a saint, but they were the ones to start this battle,” Gary said in a Facebook statement. “This parking lot has been a two-sided parking lot for everyone for as long as I can remember.”
Added Matt: “Zoning needs to make a decision and get these out of here. It’s a fire hazard and we lost business and might have to shut down soon.”
DiBuono said contrary to online gossip, DON has no ill will towards 2 Brothers.
He highlighted DON’s continued revitalization efforts to different areas in town, including the lower East Side via its Elm Street program.
“Simply put, businesses that do not have adequate parking need to direct their customers to public parking areas or other places that do not interfere with their neighbors’ property,” the DON release said. “It is unfortunate that DON was forced to place the Jersey barriers to ensure access to its own property.”
Gary said the brothers called towing companies on restaurant patrons who were parking on spaces designated for 2 Brothers.
He said his family owned the building at 341 E. Washington St. since 1995 and over the years, businesses that have used the other building, including the former Four Brothers Urban Bistro, have cooperated together to share the parking area.
“It needs to be two-sided parking,” Gary said.
He said he would like to see physical proof that DON owns the part of the parking lot where the Jersey barriers are, which was defined as a right-of-way access.
Both brothers said they have never seen any paperwork, although city Solicitor Ted Saad told the brothers that DON’s legal team showed him the proper paperwork.
Saad said he was instructed by Administrator Chris Frye to look into what the city could do about the matter legally.
He said since there is no public right-of-way along the area between the two buildings and there is nothing the city can do, as the matter is likely more appropriate for the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas.
“Our hands are tied. It’s a dispute between private owners,” Saad said. “The city can’t do anything to enforce private property rights.”
Council is considering an ordinance on Jersey barriers and other similar traffic control devices without a permit in certain zoning areas.