Is Your Car Safe From Vandals While You're Eating at Houston Restaurants?
Should all restaurants be able to promise security?
Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
We bitch and moan about valet parking all the time, but it does have its upsides.
For instance, when there are valet drivers running back and forth between lots day and night, your parked cars are less likely to get broken into. When the parking is up to you though, who's watching your car?
According to one unhappy diner at Pluckers on North Shepherd, not the Houston Police Department.
Cars are getting broken into fairly frequently on Eli Street next to the parking lot behind the wing restaurant, and a victim emailed us to tell us about the issue. When we went to check it out, we did indeed find broken glass up and down Eli Street, as well as in the Pluckers parking lot, in spite of the fact that there are multiple signs hung on lamp posts warning of security cameras.
"We're currently in the process of working on something, we just don't have anything at the moment," an employee, who wouldn't give her name, explained to me. "I don't know exactly what they're doing though. That's my general manager's job."
According to the woman who emailed us, she spoke to the general manager, Todd Winiger, after her car was broken into, and he told her that the HPD "laughs in his face when he suggests they set up a sting." While a sting might not be necessary, an investigation certainly couldn't hurt. Winiger wasn't ready to comment at this point, but he put us in touch with his Human Resources department, who should be able to tell us if Pluckers has any increased security measures in the works.
This raises the question: Whose responsibility is it to protect your vehicle while you're out dining? Should the restaurant provide private security? Should you only go out to places where you know there's a secure lot or valet? Is it worth the risk?
It may not look like much, but there's glass littering the street and parking lot outside Pluckers.
Back in October, I had my car broken into while I was out eating at Boheme. I had parked down Morgan street and returned from dinner to find my passenger window smashed and my computer stolen. The police laughed at me when I called to file a report and essentially told me they had more important things to worry about and maybe I shouldn't leave my computer in my car. That's a fair point, and I don't blame the police at all for being more focused on, you know, murders and whatnot, but I wondered what I could have done to prevent the break-in. Another person was hit at the same time I was, and though she didn't have anything stolen, she was unhappy that her dinner had turned into an expensive trip to the mechanic, as a window replacement is generally far below any car insurance's deductible.
But for restaurants like Boheme--and many restaurants in Montrose--hiring private security doesn't seem to make sense. Most of these spots back up on neighborhoods, and presumably the police patrol them on a regular basis. Even valet lots aren't immune from break-ins, as I've heard stories of valeted cars targeted as well.
The person who emailed us about Pluckers thought that if we publicized the story, a solution might be found, but I honestly don't know if there is one. Parking is already a premium in this crowded city; must restaurants add private security to their costs as well? Or should the police department be doing more to patrol and prevent this sort of thing?
Sound off in the comments, and tell us what you think should be done and where, if anywhere, you're afraid to park your car while dining out.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.