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Business owners: Parking, weather, construction slowing sales downtown

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Tourist season usually ushers in a new crowd of out-of-towners looking to spend a few bucks in downtown wilmington. But business owners say profits are down.

"I think it has to do with this weird weather we've been having this year," Hardwire Tattoo owner Justin LaNasa said. "It took a while to warm up, and now it's raining like crazy. And then it rained. Also, I feel that the gas prices has something to do with tourists not wanting to travel real far."

LaNasa and other downtown business owners say parking is also to blame for slugging sales in the central business district.

"The little bit of money (the city makes) off parking is damaging the merchants, and that's what keeps the bars and restaurants and the night activity high and the day activity less, because people don't want to pay that parking fee when they could go somewhere else," LaNasa said.

Earlier this year the city increased rates in its parking decks and changed the way it charges to park in them. Records show that about 2,700 fewer cars parked in city decks in May compared to the same month last year. Revenue is down in comparing those months, too, by nearly $2,700. But one tourist we spoke with says that's not the cause of the slump in business.

"I don't believe it's the parking rates. They're more expensive in other towns," tourist Vern Moody said. "I mean five dollars for a day is, to me, reasonable."

He says the economy is the real culprit.

Jade Edens, who works, at Penders Café disagrees. She says it is the parking.

"I think it's the cost, and I think there's not been enough on-street parking," she said.

Business owners we spoke with say that although things are slow right now, with 4th of July just around the corner, and the weather clearing up, they're hopeful that business will pick back up again, too.

Business owners say other factors affecting sales may be downtown construction and the fact they're seeing more in-state visitors and fewer out-of-state tourists.

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