Neighbors of Johnny’s, the new restaurant in the Roland Park Shopping Center say the eatery’s popularity is causing parking problems in the immediate neighborhood.
The co-owner of the Park Lynn Apartments, the manager of the Roland Park Condominium and the pastor of Roland Park Presbyterian Church all say they have received complaints from residents and congregants. They say people have had a hard time parking near their homes or the church since Johnny’s opened in October in the 4800 block of Roland Avenue.
The Foreman-Wolf Restaurant Group, which owns Johnny’s and another restaurant, Petit Louis, in the historic shopping center, moved last week to minimize parking issues at the church across the street on Sunday mornings.
In a March 1 letter to Roland Park Presbyterian’s pastor, the Rev. Mark Hanna, restaurateur Tony Foreman said he has instructed employees not to park on Upland Road before church services, “so as not to inconvenience the members of your congregation.”
Foreman acted after an inquiry by the Baltimore Messenger last week. He said he never received an initial letter that Hanna wrote in November asking that Johnny’s employees not park on Upland before church services.
Some problems are inevitable with limited spaces at the small center, Foreman said. He said he had to park a block away one day last month.
Hanna, in his letter, said parking is a problem on Sunday mornings when Johnny’s employees park on Upland Road near the church, so that the breakfast crowd can park near the restaurant.
“I am certainly aware that we have no special claim to the street parking and that you can’t dictate where your customers will park,” Hanna’s letter stated.
“However, we would certainly appreciate if you would ask your employees to find alternate parking on Sunday mornings so that our members can park closer to the church.”
Roland Park Civic League President Phil Spevak said Johnny’s “has been a great addition to the community,” and that parking problems should come as no surprise to residents, because Foreman warned the league last year of the potential for such problems.
“There’s no way around it,” Foreman told a civic league audience in February 2012.
Christy Stevens, on-site manager of Roland Park Condominium at 6 Upland Road, said parking was a problem when Johnny’s first opened.
“Particularly around the holiday season, it was really bad,” said Stevens, who works for the condo association. “Even I had problems.”
But, Stevens added, “I have not had any complaints recently.”
Firefighters and paramedics at the Roland Park Fire Station, 2 Upland Road, have not had parking problems either, said Capt. Stephen Kowalewski.
In addition to the parking problems, Joan Jackson, owner and manager of the nearby Park Lynn Apartments, 4 Upland Road, and her maintenance employee, Jay Seeney, also question the layout of two trash receptacles, a grease barrel and a separate grease cart on Long Lane, a glorified alley that runs between the back of Johnny’s and the apartment building. Seeney said they would be better positioned closer to the restaurant and that a garbage truck recently hit and broke the fence between the apartments and the alley while trying to maneuver to pick up trash for Johnny’s and Petit Louis.
The building of 52 apartments and townhouses, which Jackson said her father built in 1947, sits roughly 10 feet from Johnny’s.
Foreman disputed complaints by Jackson and Seeney that trash receptacles jut into the alley. He said it’s the first time in the restaurant group’s 13 years at the center that “someone has actually hit the fence.”
Jackson said she is trying to get Johnny’s to move the grease barrel from under a restaurant window on Long Lane to a spot closer to the restaurant, after a grease spill in October, the first week that Johnny’s opened. Foreman and restaurant group spokeswoman, Allison Parker-Abromitis, confirmed that there as a grease spill in the alley in October. Jackson and Seeney said there have been no grease spills in the alley since then.
Jackson has also written a letter asking to meet with Foreman. The letter does not say what she wants to meet about.
Spevak said the civic league looked into whether Johnny’s was complying with agreements that shoppig center owner Tricia Ward made with the league, and found no violations of those agreements or Roland Park community covenants.
“I know we have followed up on concerns that came to us,” Spevak said.
Foreman said the alley is cleaner and better organized than it was before Johnny’s opened. He saidthree grease barrels that Petit Louis used to place in the alley have been replaced by one larger barrel for both restaurants. He also said Ward, whose family owns the shopping center, changed exterminators at his request after complaints about rat problems in the alley.
Foreman said trash pickup behind the center has been expanded from four to seven times a week for trash and five times a week for recycling.
“The only change has been a tidier routine back there,” Foreman said. “It’s cleaner than it was.”
He also said a combination electric and telephone pole in the alley was moved at a cost of more than $20,000, to make way for a second trash receptacle.Foreman said he has tried to be a good neighbor and overall has received “a strong and positive response” from the community about Johnny’s.
“It’s going nicely,” he said of business. “It continues to grow.”