CHICAGO (WBBM) – It was an unwelcome Halloween trick for businesses along a block-long stretch of Touhy Avenue in the West Rogers Park neighborhood, when a parking meter pay box popped up outside their stores.

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Along Touhy between Francisco and Sacramento avenues, there had always been free street parking. But, suddenly without warning, a pay box appeared on Oct. 31.

Michael Ben-Ezra owns the North Shore Bakery at 2919 W. Touhy Ave. Last week, the first week with the pay box, he says his business was down 30 percent.

“You know, the customer comes in to buy a sweet roll or something, They walk in for 10 minutes” and have to pay or risk a $50 ticket.”

He says, with the pay boxes, the city is driving businesses away. He points to the next block which has had metered parking all along it and more than half the storefronts are empty.

The alderman of the ward, Bernie Stone (50th), says the new metered parking was put in on Touhy because several pay boxes had been removed for various reasons along nearby Devon Avenue.

Alderman Stone says, under the lease deal that privatized the city’s parking, there can be no net loss in parking spots for Chicago Parking Meters LLC. “They’re guaranteed X number of spots so if you remove them from one place, you have to replace them in another.”

As for the businesses along Touhy, Alderman Stone says they’ve been lucky until now to have no meters. Now, their luck has run out.