AIKEN --- Pat Friday was able to shop at ease in downtown Aiken on Friday afternoon.
She brought her grandson and his friends along as she perused boutiques along Laurens Street and ate lunch.
It's something she would have refused to do before parking restrictions downtown were eliminated, she said.
"If you have to worry about moving your car every two hours, it's a distraction," Friday said. "I thought it was an excellent idea that they changed it."
Her view was shared by a number of business owners who had urged Aiken City Council to reconsider the two-hour parking limits that were in place on downtown streets for two years. The council heard the outcry and unanimously decided March 8 to suspend the limits. Handicapped and 30-minute parking spaces were added on some downtown streets to help customers who need close or short-term parking.
Mike Willis, the owner of Tea Garden Gifts on Laurens Street, said he had already noticed a change over the past week. Employees have begun parking downtown. The limits had been implemented because of concerns over employees taking up customer parking.
"There are more of them parking out front," he said. "I wanted to have some control in front of the stores, but more of the owners wanted to be this way."
Aiken Department of Public Safety Capt. Wendell Hall said that when the limit was still in force, an officer was placed downtown to monitor parking on parts of Laurens Street, Hayne Avenue, Richland Avenue, Newberry Street and Park Avenue from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The department had issued more than two dozen citations this year.
"We'll continue to have deputies downtown, but they won't be there for parking," he said.
Det Haislip, the owner of True Value hardware store, said he has not noticed a change yet. He said many of his customers would benefit from the short-term parking. Though he advocated keeping the limits, he is glad to see disagreements over the issue cease.
"It hinders downtown business for there to be negative things in the air about downtown," he said. "Employees aren't parking out in front of my store at this point, but I don't know if I'll be able to say that in six months."
Bob Johnston of Aiken said lifting the parking restrictions was a good idea. He said he had no problems finding a parking space near Aiken Brewery, where he ate lunch Friday.
"Any time there's less government, that's a good thing," he said. "I pulled right in here today, and that's what I'll be able to do the next time."