Not So Fond of Fonda

A skirmish is brewing in Allandale involving one of Austin's most revered restaurants. The Allandale Neighborhood Assoc. Executive Committee recently gave its approval to an application, endorsed by several residents of the 5100-5300 blocks of Woodview Avenue, for residential parking permits from 5-9pm Tuesdays through Saturdays. Those happen to be the peak hours for Fonda San Miguel, whose dinner patrons would no longer be able to park on those two blocks. Fonda owner Tom Gilliland says he plans to "fight like hell" to maintain parking on the two contested blocks of Woodview for his customers.

Allandale resident Beth Rumancik, who lives down the street from Fonda San Miguel, says diners routinely park on both sides of the street (making it difficult to put out the trash), block driveways and access to fire hydrants, make noise, and leave cocktail glasses, to-go boxes, and other items in residents' yards. "One of neighbors said he found a dress one day," she said. She believes the parking problem has worsened in the past few years, but said talking to restaurant management, including Gilliland and general manager Miguel Ravago, has been fruitless. "Every time they've said they were going to do something, they say they're not the problem, and are not willing to work with neighbors," Rumancik said. "So we're taking our own action."

According to Gilliland, who says he didn't know about the neighborhood's action until contacted by the Chronicle, the restaurant hasn't increased seating capacity since it opened in 1975, so its parking problems shouldn't have worsened. He and Ravago have done "everything we can" to placate neighbors -- even abandoning an expansion project that some residents said would exacerbate parking problems. Several other Woodview residents have told Gilliland that they have no problem with the restaurant's patrons or its parking amenities, which include a lot next door to the restaurant and weekend valet service. But if they did, Gilliland said, "our position is [they should] let us know."

Neighbors have suggested that Fonda patrons can park in the lots of nearby businesses. Meanwhile, Gilliland says the parking permits would give residents exclusive rights to on-street parking in a public area, which wouldn't be fair and would hurt his business. "If they want to restrict our business and make it difficult, then fine and dandy -- adios," he said. "What they will end up doing is run someone like us out. I'll just sell [the restaurant] to a Dallas nightclub, and then they can have tremendous problems."

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