CHICAGO (CBS) — A group of Lincoln Park mothers, with babies in tow, were fuming Wednesday, angry that a tow company put the hook on their cars even though the lot where they parked wasn’t clearly marked with “no parking” signs.
As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, the mothers intend to try to get their parking fines refunded.
Jade Benning and her daughter Lorelei and Meghann Sarnicki and her son Lucas were among a group of moms and children enjoying a playdate Tuesday morning at Little Beans Café, which combines coffee for parents with playtime for toddlers.
But in the middle of their playdate, the mothers were told their cars were being towed out of the parking lot they’d been using for months.
Sarnicki said by the time she got outside, “my car was already gone. I was probably was one of the first ones towed.”
In all, about 20 cars were towed from a giant lot next door to the café; customers had been parking there since last June, when the neighboring building was torn down.
Little Beans owner Rob Spengler said, “We never had any problems. Nobody said it was going to start towing. So the whole community started using it as a parking lot.”
Benning said, “When we started looking, we did find two signs and you can see they’re at the far ends of the lot, nowhere near where I was parking.”
The signs were posted at the far end of the parking lot, against an expressway embankment – hardly legible from the entrance.
Sarnicki said she believes it was a case of abuse by the towing company hired for the lot.
“If it had been clearly marked, I’m very careful about where I park, because I know there’s no such thing as free parking in the city,” she said. “There were no signs around by where we parked.”
The café has posted warnings since the mothers had their cars towed – both in the parking lot and on their doors.
But on Tuesday, the moms had to leave their kids with friends at the café, hop in cabs to Phillips Towing and pay a $200 fee to get their cars back.
“I called the company and tried to plead with them, you know, ‘Can I get a ride with your driver, you know, he’s obviously going back to the lot,’ and was hung up on,” Sarnicki said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Phillips hadn’t returned calls to answer questions about the incident.
The rules of the Illinois Commerce Commission state that towing warning signs at private lots must be visible from each entrance and exit. The Phillips towing signs are barely visible from the entrances, but not legible to drivers entering the lot.