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St. Mary's parking restrictions off to rocky start for San Antonio police

Garrett Capps playing at Paper Tiger 4.2.22
Garrett Capps playing at Paper Tiger, a venue just south of newly attempted parking restrictions

Fiesta was in full swing on St. Mary’s strip this Saturday night.

“Happy fiesta,” shouted Santiago Jiménez Jr. as he wrapped up his set at Paper Tiger — the accordion player and his band were just one of a few bands playing a free show.

Outside traffic moved slowly, and there was a noticeable increase in ride-sharing drop-offs, while some bars with parking started charging patrons for the privilege.

The music venue is just south of the police barricades intended to keep nonresidents off neighborhood streets.

San Antonio Police Department closed sections of the adjacent Tobin Hill neighborhood to nonresident parking over the weekend from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. as a dry run for future crime prevention efforts in the popular St. Mary’s strip area.

Arguments between residents and bar owners — some who are also residents — over noise and violence are not new to the area that hosts 19 bars in about a half-mile stretch.

But a recent burst of violence has brought the issue to a fever pitch despite the newly implemented parking restrictions this weekend.

A shooting Sunday morning at East Locust Street near McCullough Avenue brings the number to at least three shootings in four months.

Two men were shot in an altercation between four men south of where the bars begin.

According to SAPD, an argument escalated, and one of the men fired a gun hitting a 24-year-old man and another man. Both were reported in stable condition.

Sunday’s shooting calls into question this weekend’s effort to reduce nuisance calls and violence by cordoning off the residential streets.

The hope was that closing the streets would keep drunken bar goers from stumbling past homes and through yards. Parker Dixon — president of the Tobin Hill Community Association — said that was the case for the area that was sequestered.

Those residents experienced calm they hadn’t in years, he said.

But while some residents felt more peace, others reported the parking situation and rowdy bar patrons were pushed from one area to another.

“Unfortunately, the traffic did push out further into parts of the neighborhood that normally don't suffer any of the parking traffic hazards that we near the strip do,” Dixon said

The issue has raised the hackles of the newly affected, while some in the barricaded streets complained of not having access to their own streets — having to move barriers themselves.

Speaking last Thursday, Sean Wen, co-owner of Curry Boys BBQ, was worried his dinner rush would be killed by the barricades that were supposed to go up at 7 p.m.

“Strictly speaking from a small business, like restaurant perspective, like, of course, having closures at 7 p.m. is gonna, it's gonna affect you,” said Wen. 

On Monday, Wen reported that his team did a healthy business on Saturday night — selling out — but that was followed by an unusually slow Sunday. At least one other business TPR was able to reach mentioned that one or more days were slower.

Currently the plan was that this weekend’s parking restrictions would be the first of potentially more weekends to employ the crowd controlling methods.

“We're hoping the Pape Dawson parking study will render some information and data that we can work off of instead of just anecdotal stuff,” Dixon said.

He added the shooting complicated things, and that area Councilman Mario Bravo’s office has asked for another town hall over the issues in the area, the third public meeting of the association since early March.

With such mixed results — frustration from both residents and bar and restaurant owners is likely to continue.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org