Customers of Kelowna's downtown Starbucks location must now register their cars if they are parked on-site to avoid walk-offs from their private parking lot.

The Starbucks on Bertram Street has free private parking for its customers, but the company has dealt with many people using the parking lot to go elsewhere, whether it's a nearby school or downtown. In an attempt to resolve this issue, the owner of the private parking lot has contracted out Mario's Towing to set up a registration system for customer vehicles.

"Everything works with a QR code. Starbucks doesn't want people walking off their lot, if you go in for a coffee, you have to scan the QR code, register your vehicle and then you can sit in Starbucks for two hours, have your coffee with your friend and take your car and then go away," Craig Butts with Mario Towing says.

Butts believes this is the future for parking systems as it is widely used in cities like Toronto, Los Angeles and New York, but to some, it seems like it might be too futuristic.

But do you need a cellphone to park?

While the signage outside the Starbucks might make it seem that way, Butts said a cell phone is not required as Starbucks employees can help out.

"If you don't know how to use a QR code, there's a phone number on the signs which you can call, get a live person on the phone to register your car, or even go on the website to register your car," he says. "If someone doesn't have a phone, they can walk into Starbucks and they can self-register inside by telling an employee 'I don't have a phone, but I want to enjoy my coffee inside,' and Starbucks will register their car with them."

Butts says Mario's Towing is the first company to offer this service in the province and it's getting quite popular as many businesses are dealing with walk-offs in their parking lots, which often results in a lack of parking spaces for customers.

"I launched this with a Canadian-based company and I've probably signed up 60 or 70 accounts throughout the Interior of BC that are now doing this," he says.

"More and more companies are switching to this system because there's zero conflict. There are no tickets being issued, if you don't register you'll just get towed. You don't have to pay for parking, so just register."

If someone does not register their parked car, a tow truck that comes around every two hours will tow their vehicle to the towing company's yard.

"The fee they have to pay depends on the size of the vehicle, if it's an all-wheel drive vehicle or not, how far they've parked from our yard, it all depends and it varies a lot; I couldn't really give you a ballpark of the cost."

While Butts wouldn't reveal the cost of towing, a call to Mario's Towing as a customer reveals that to pickup a vehicle on the same day it was towed from downtown Kelowna, it would cost $250 and everyday it remains in the company's yard is an extra $40.

The new parking system may becoming more popular with businesses but it's not flawless yet.

There's no way to ensure people registering their vehicles are Starbucks customers.While Butts says Starbucks employees can be on the lookout for walk-offs, a Starbucks representative denies this claim.

"Managing and enforcing parking is not the responsibility of Starbuck partners (employees)," Leanna Rizzi of Starbucks said in an emailed statement.

A Starbucks representative 

— This story was updated at 10:45 a.m. Friday, March 1, 2024, to add how much it would cost if your vehicle was towed.

— This story was corrected at 1:45 p.m. March 6, 2024, to clarify that Starbucks had not contracted Mario's Towing.

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