Freehold brings selected free parking back to some downtown business areas after public outcry

Customers told business owners they would not be coming back if they had to pay to park.

Jim Murdoch

Feb 15, 2024, 10:32 PM

Updated 148 days ago


Do not pass go because some free parking returns to parts of downtown Freehold.
The changes began this week to the town’s downtown paid parking - just six months after rolling it out - due to local shops seeing a drop in business.
The Triangle, Borough Hall and Market Yard lots are once again free for all-day parking Sunday through Tuesday and Wednesday through Saturday between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Paid street parking remains the same.
Six months ago, Freehold made the switch to paid parking because restaurant owners wanted faster customer turnover during busier times. The money would go back into downtown maintenance. That plan - according to some business owners - backfired during weekday lunch hours.
“People literally told us to our face they’re not coming back, they’re not paying to park,” said Keith Lewis, owner of Sweet Lew’s Cafe. “Freehold has been free for 100, 200 years it’s been in existence, and when they laid this out on us it didn’t go well. They didn’t receive it well and it hasn’t gone well.”
Customers began noticing the difference when trying to pay at the kiosk, only being met by a “free parking holiday” notification.
“I’m happy because there’s free parking now. Today, all this week it’s supposed to be, so I am happy now,” said Jesus Cruz, of Freehold.
“I think it’s worth a try. I think you’ll get a lot more people coming back here for lunch,” added Liz Rothman, visiting for lunch from Monroe Township.
Some downtown Freehold restaurant owners tell News 12 the paid parking does work during the busy Friday and Saturday nights, allowing for more spaces to open, and better turnover for the business.
Freehold Borough Mayor Kevin Kane sent this statement to News 12, explaining the changes and the future of the parking program.
“The Borough’s Parking Management System was deployed in September of 2023 after years of study, discussion and input among key stakeholders. The system has been successful in freeing up much-needed parking spaces during high-demand times."
The statement continued, "As the system is utilized, and real-time experience and data are gathered, the borough will continue to modify the system in order to meet the dynamic needs of our community. At the present time, the borough has issued a temporary parking holiday to help deal with a larger-than-expected midwinter slowdown in business while we continue to dialogue with our constituents and local business owners to continue to develop a system that meets changing demands for parking resources."

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