Businesses in downtown Moncton say a religious and church supply store needs to give patrons a break when it comes to parking.

People who use the designated parking spots at RD MacLean often end up with a boot — a device that immobilizes a vehicle — and have to pay an $85 fine to have it removed.

Lindsay Arsenault of Halifax had her car booted about a year ago when she parked at RD MacLean.

"I was absolutely astounded," said Arsenault. "I can't imagine any business treating their customers like that.

Some business owners in the area say inadequate signage is a problem.

Parking problem

The sign, warning people that parking is reserved for RD MacLean customers and offenders will be booted, is obscured by the company's van. (Jessica Doria-Brown / CBC)

They say the sign warning people they could be booted is often blocked by RD MacLean's 15-passenger van.

"They have this small, little sign and 90 per cent of the time their big white van is covering it and they don't see it," said Tracy Petukhov, who owns Plan B bar and lounge.

"People are very aware of the boot thing — it's just not clearly marked. We have pictures of it, that van is covering that sign."

Petukhov says she books musical acts from all over Canada who have never been to Moncton. Too often, they arrive and unknowingly park in one of the RD MacLean spots and have their vehicle booted within minutes of arrival, she said.

Sign obscured

The sign warning people that parking is reserved for RD MacLean customers is hidden by the company's van. (Jessica Doria-Brown / CBC)

The boots are also put to vehicles at times when RD MacLean is not open for business, said Petukhov.

It would be better for the area if RD MacLean "doesn't do that anymore … and lets people park when her business is not open," said Petukhov.

Owner Claudia MacLean admits the sign is often hard to see, but she says people would abuse the parking anyway.

"We have that mentality that we can park wherever we want and we're growing into a big city [where] these luxuries are no longer feasible," said MacLean. "It doesn't make sense anymore."

Claudia MacLean

Claudia MacLean of RD MacLean stands by her store's need to rigorously patrol its parking spaces. (Jessica Doria-Brown / CBC)

Mayor George LeBlanc says he's heard complaints about the parking situation at RD MacLean and at other private lots in the city.

"It's a very bad experience," said LeBlanc. "Most of them write to me and tell me they will never come back to Moncton again."

LeBlanc says he understands the concerns of business owners who fear their customers won't have a place to park if their parking spots are not patrolled.

"On the other hand, especially here in downtown, we want to be open for business," said LeBlanc. "We want to encourage, not discourage.

"We want them to feel safe and secure and not feel threatened," he said. "This is bad for business, counter-productive."

LeBlanc says he wants the city to be able to force businesses to make signage more visible.

That idea has been talked about for several years, but no action has been taken. LeBlanc says he's been told the city doesn't have the authority to establish visibility requirements for signage.