DOWNTOWN BUSINESS OWNERS ASK FOR HELP

lyristisRed Bank business owner George Lyristis led a plea to the borough council to make changes that would be positive for the downtown Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s going to take a team effort for downtown business owners to make it out of this murky economy alive, says George Lyristis, co-owner of The Bistro at Red Bank.

Time to get the other players involved, then.

Lyristis, along with a handful of other merchants, urged the borough council on Monday night to work with them in getting Red Bank back on track as a buzzing, competitive force in the region. The group wrote a letter to the council outlining what it hopes the governing body can do to get that done.

Keeping the downtown a little cleaner, scaling back parking enforcement and adding signs to direct motorists to parking lots will do, Lyristis said.

“We all have to chip in at this point,” said Lyristis, the de facto voice for business owners at Monday’s meeting.

For one, the downtown needs to be cleaner, the letter said. Even though RiverCenter, the borough’s independent agency charged with promoting the downtown, has someone routinely picking up litter, it’s not enough. The letter suggested adding a weekend day for public works to pick up garbage to keep cans from overflowing.

There also needs to be better signage in town, the letter said.

“Half the wayfinding signs are broken or incorrect,” it read. “People who come here have to be shown where to go to find parking and businesses; they can’t here because there’s nothing showing them the way.”

Then there’s the always-hot parking issue.

Lyristis and company are down on the $38 parking ticket. And even if enforcement has been relaxed recently, Lyristis said the perception of Red Bank’s metering needs to change.

He said his other restaurant, Zoe, in Little Silver, is getting clientele who used to come to the Bistro, but have avoided the parking headache in Red Bank by heading a town over.

“I don’t think it was the $38 ticket one time. I think it was the two, three, four, five times,” he said. “The perception is still there. I think we need to change that.”

That all could be changed, he said, with a parking garage.

“We need a parking garage!” the letter read. “If we had a garage, we wouldn’t have to worry about our employees or customers getting tickets.”

Of course, Lyristis doesn’t expect a garage put up with the snap of the fingers. He would, however, like an outlined plan of what the council is going to do about parking in the future.

Councilman Mike DuPont said while the council has made steps to help the downtown economy in the last year, he understands more is needed.

He wants people to know that, “Hey, look, we’re trying to get our groove back and make (Red Bank) more customer-friendly.”

With fierce competition from Asbury Park and Long Branch’s Pier Village, Lyristis said Red Bank can’t afford to lose visitors because of a few broken signs and the fear of losing money on a parking ticket.

“Please listen to your businesses’ needs,” the letter to the council said. “We cover over 40 percent of your property taxes and we need your help.”

Here’s the letter: letter-drafted-to-mayor-council-for-businesses