Aussie café offering free coffee for drivers stung by parking fines

Fed up with “vulture” parking inspectors scaring customers away, a café in northern Victoria is dolling out free shots to help ease the pain of parking fines.

Across December and January, Greater Shepparton City Council made council-owned car parking free to “support local businesses". And while council clearly states time limits still apply, the owner of Afterglow Cafe says customers have been confused over how long they can park for, with rangers ready to pounce.

Rebecca Barillaro, the owner of Afterglow Cafe, said she's watched parking inspectors dish out parking fines in mostly empty carparks. Source: Rebecca Barillaro
Rebecca Barillaro, the owner of Afterglow Cafe, said she's watched parking inspectors dish out parking fines in mostly empty carparks. Source: Rebecca Barillaro

“People are getting shocked when they return to a $93 parking fine,” Rebecca Barillaro told Yahoo News Australia, saying many of her customers had left “upset” over the fine and the circumstances.

“I fully understand that we need parking inspectors and there is a need for enforcement, but when there were three car parks out of about 80 that had cars in them, and the three cars parked had fines, I find it hard to believe that it's about that and not just about revenue raising.”

“To be blatantly honest, they [the parking inspectors] are absolute vultures here.”

The Welsford Street carpark (left) and a parking inspector (right).
Ms Barillaro says she understands the need for parking inspectors but thinks it seems to be more about 'revenue raising' in Shepparton. Source: Rebecca Barillaro

‘Double whammy’ of issues

The café owner says issues around timing restrictions have also been compounded since roadworks started on Welsford Road late last year, forcing the temporary closure of Welsford Street car park.

Ms Barillaro says the threat of parking fines, along with customers wanting to avoid the road works nearby, are costing her business.

“We've had a dramatic drop in clientele, so by 50 per cent or more,” she said. “I’ve got customers that are saying, look I really want to come back but we can’t afford to be fined when we’re five or 10 minutes over a time limit... It's hard enough to get a car park because of the excessive traffic caused by the road works, so we'll just stay away from there.”

“At a time when businesses are struggling, you would think that the best thing to do would be [for the council] to try and look after people shopping locally.”

Afterglow Cafe in Shepparton (left) and Rebecca Barillaro (right).
The café owner says she's been handing out free coffees to encourage people to come back after getting hit with a parking fine. Source: Rebecca Barillaro

Free coffees for those hit with fines

Desperate and upset, Ms Barillaro is offering anyone who's been handed a parking fine in the Welsford Street car park a free coffee to "apologise for how bad the parking is in Shepparton".

“I thought, how can I, in a happy way, try and encourage people to come back after a bad experience,” she explained. “The coffee is not by any means going to fix that, but if it's something that will continue to bring people back, then that's the least I can do.”

Since taking to Facebook to share the offer, the café owner says she's had between 10 to 20 people come in each day with fines.

Yahoo News Australia reached out to Greater Shepparton City Council on Tuesday but the council is yet to respond.

On the Council’s website, its rules around complimentary parking during December and January are clearly explained, including that “time limits still apply for the parking spaces” and that “infringement notices will be issued if you overstay the time displayed on the signs of the area.”

“Take note of the street parking signs,” it urges, “as time limits apply".

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