Sketchy, Sketchy Valet Parking Practices Alleged at the Atlantic Cinema Last Night

by Prince Of Petworth February 11, 2016 at 1:05 pm 63 Comments

807 V Street, NW

“Dear PoPville,

I had an interesting interaction at Atlantic Cinema Theater tonight. I was going to see the 730 show of Hail Caesar. When I drove up to the theater the entire parking lane in front of the cinema had construction cones on the curb and emergency no parking signs on the street lights. I pulled out in front of one of the lights to read the restrictions since I assumed it was a daytime no parking order for a moving truck. I was shocked to see it was for a moving truck from 4:00 pm-11:00 pm. While I was looking at the sign a guy in a valet uniform from mj parking became up and asked me what I was doing.

I told him I was going to see a movie. He asked me what movie. I told him just a movie. And then I drove off since it was no parking. I drove around the block and then saw a spot opening up across the street from the cinema. I pulled up behind the spot and as the car left a gentleman in the same uniform stepped into the spot. I pulled forward and started backing into the spot. He told me the spot was saved. I asked for what. He told me it was a valet parking spot. I asked if there was a sign. He told me it was being saved for valet parking. At that point the gentleman who had talked to me before, in front of the cinema, told him to move, saying “it wasn’t worth it.”

After I parked the man who had been trying to save the spot told me “Thanks for being a team player.” Once I went into the cinema to see my show I found out there was a premier for the New Yorker. The valet team was not using a valet spot but instead was using a no parking order for a moving truck, and then trying to save nearby spots. My question is what can be done about this?

I need to clarify if they took out a no parking order permit for a moving truck and then used it for valet parking and had people standing in open spots to save them for valet parking at the cinema.”

  • petworther

    I’d bring it to the attention of the Atlantic Cinema folks. This is probably the fault of a shady private valet group who should have filed for permits. Hopefully they won’t use the same company in the future.

  • DC Guy

    Have you called Atlantic Cinema? Have a quick chat. A lot of times this stuff can be cleared up with a quick phone call.

  • wdc

    All that hassle, followed by a really disappointing movie. What a lousy evening for you. :(

    • Survivor77


    • llucas

      Is Hail Ceasar that bad?

    • annonny

      Hahaha +1,000. Hail Caesar is a big letdown.

  • I Dont Get It

    One more reason not to drive!

  • Lele

    Who cares? Gotta hustle somehow

  • davepander

    I agree, use the new DC taxi app.

  • ke

    That’s pretty weird. Was it a premier at Atlantic Plumbing and if so, did you contact the management to inquire?

  • apes

    Did the sign actually say it was for a moving truck?
    I agree that the it’s pretty sketchy that the guy was trying to hold an unmarked space, but it is totally legit to get emergency no parking for reasons other than a moving truck, including reserving parking for events.

  • U Street Resident

    I have personally encountered these illegal practices. I’ve been threatened and told that I would receive a ticket. I ignored the valet knowing I was not in violation of any laws, and parked anyways.

  • Shaw

    This is one of the MOST frustrating things about DC. The law is explicitly clear: permanently signed (on the pole) valet zones are the ONLY on-street areas where valet people can put cars. They may not even block off a street parking space or two in front of a restaurant with cones to *receive* cars unless they have an approved, signed valet zone from DDOT. It is 100% against the law for a valet to take your car and park it in an on-street space. The problem is, the enforcement team goes home at 5:00 on weekdays and doesn’t work weekends!
    Park in any legal spot you like and tell the valet to shove it. They cannot ticket you and they cannot tow.

    • Kelly

      “Park in any legal spot you like and tell the valet to shove it. They cannot ticket you and they cannot tow.”

      While I completely agree with you in that you shouldn’t have to deal with the ridiculous shenanigans like this, I would mention this in the same vein as moving peoples “street furniture” after a snow storm and parking in “their spot”.

      Don’t be surprised when you come back to your car and you have a a dent in your door, or a key gash the entire length of you car. I’ve actually watched valet parkers in DC get into a “tiff” with someone who was parking in a perfectly legal spot the valet was trying to claim as out of bounds and when the guy walked around the corner, the value put his boot in the side door, leaving a pretty big dent.

      • Frank

        Did you call the police and report the damage?

    • petworther

      This is not true at all. You can get a temporary event permit for valet staging just like any other public space permit:
      Obviously you’re going to need somewhere to put the cars, but no city is going to allow you to reserve blocks of street parking for a valet service.

    • me

      Yup. I’ve experienced the same exact issue. Valet parking company prevented me from parking on a street spot: https://www.popville.com/2013/05/dear-popville-valet-parking-abuses/

      In my case, the offender was 701 Restaurant.

      Next time – call the cops. They will make the valet move.

    • RL

      Hey, thanks for the reminder that valets can’t use street parking spots! I saw a valet from NoPa do one of the worst parallel parking jobs I’ve ever witnessed on G Street in front of Shake Shack on a busy Friday night a few months ago. I resisted the urge to call him out for leaving the vehicle too far from the curb and nowhere near the car in front of him, but had it dawned on me it was actually completely illegal for him to park there in the first place, I definitely would have said something.

    • textdoc

      I suspect a lot of valet-parking companies are regularly parking their customers’ cars on the street.
      A few years ago, I saw a valet parker for the Bombay Club park a customer’s car in a street-parking space.. It was a metered space, and the meter hours were in effect. The guy didn’t even pay the meter!

      • stacksp

        They definitely are parking cars on the street. Common practice for these companies to commandeer spaces for Valet Use. When you go to BLT Steak or Maestros or some other fancy restaurant, they are not parking cars in a garage. Usually they have a set of side of spaces but I don’t think anyone challenges them technically as to the right to those spaces. They stick a sign out and that’s about it.

        • stacksp

          Not to say that they dont have a legitimate right to those spaces but they do go unchallenged often. The above scenario seems as if it was a one off for the event and they wanted to offer Valet service and just basically grabbed some spots to pull it off.

      • JoDa

        This used to happen quite regularly when I lived on the Hill. Events with valet at the Library of Congress would park the side lot full, and then when they ran out of space there, just start parking cars in the surrounding residential zones. I figured that’s how all valets in DC operate. However, I would not stop backing into legal parking spot if a valet stood in it. And if I witnessed someone damage another person’s car *I WOULD CALL THE POLICE TO REPORT THE VANDALISM.* You did that, right Kelly?

  • ColHeist

    I completely understand that situations like this are frustrating. However, I think the best course of action in this case is to just let it go.

    • me

      disagree. It just allows them to get away with it.

      If you don’t have the time, sure move on. Otherwise, you should give them shit so they all stop doing it.

      • AG

        Agree. This isn’t some individual saving a spot for a buddy who had to drive around the block. This is a company making money by skirting the laws and making things more difficult to tax paying residents. Are people now supposed to park blocks away because a valet is cheating the system and taking up all the nearby spots?

        • Shaw

          Another point: by taking up all the street parking nearby where people can park cheaply (or in some places after 6:00pm for free!), they’re creating more customers for themselves! If you can’t find a spot, you’re more likely to valet and make someone else deal with it. When a valet company takes $30 from someone and puts their car in a street space, they are stealing from the citizens and re-selling a public good we have all already paid for back to us. It’s wrong.

          • blindbible

            really good analysis, hadn’t thought of it that way.

  • textdoc

    I’d try contacting the Landmark Cinema management. Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I’d like to think that they don’t endorse this valet company’s shady practices.

  • ah

    If you really want to do something, call DCRA. There’s a regulation regarding valet spaces, and circumventing it probably isn’t something they’re keen to allow.

  • DC anon

    Why does the time seem sketchy to you? People get off work at 5pm, and maybe had to get a U-Haul to move their stuff in or out, and the only time they could do it would be in the evening.

    I’d like to be the first to welcome you into DC if you’re a new resident from the suburbs (Probably since you drove your car someplace within the city)

  • jaybird

    Not worth caring about. Get on with it.

    • anon


  • MS

    I went to the same movie there last night and the valet tried to stop we from locking my bicycle on the rack in front of the theater. They clearly didn’t have the permits for that event. And, yes, I locked up my bike anyway.

  • Josh

    parking shmarking.

    can we talk about how uncomfortable the viewing experience is at that place?
    i feel like all the seats in there are the ones that nobody wants to sit in at a regular movie theater…

    • Philippe Lecheval

      I agree. Just like almost everything else new in DC lately, everybody gets excited about it, but then it’s just a big letdown.
      Oh, and I guess a lot of people never got the memo that the Coen Brothers retired from putting out good movies after No Country for Old Men.

    • textdoc

      Are the theaters kind of short/squashed like at Landmark E Street (as opposed to all being pretty good-sized, like at Landmark Bethesda)?

      • Josh

        yup! super squashed. i think the people in the front row were probably about six feet from the screen.
        i really felt bad for them, but i’m sure the spring rolls are delicious!

    • houseintherear

      Disagree- I love that theatre. Being able to pick seats beforehand is so great, and I like the comfy seats.

      • Josh

        yeah, those are great things, but you didn’t think the theater was super tiny for such a large screen?

        • annonny

          Its fine if you sit in the back two rows. Since reserving seats is a possibility, I’ll just skip any movies that don’t have back row seats available.

    • oh2dc

      I also disagree. I enjoyed the theater and seating.

    • MtP

      Completely disagree, I have seen two movies there and have loved everything about it both times. The staff at the bar has been great, the beer and cocktails solid, even the spring rolls were decent. I find the seats very comfortable, and I kind of like the small size. My one complaint is that the doors to the theaters are not sound proof, so you can hear people if they are talking loudly in the hall, especially a problem for the first theaters.

    • petworther

      Also disagreeing here. They theaters are small but not terrible. I haven’t sat in the front row, my guess would be that it’s better than most. The seats are comfortable and the overall experience is great.

  • stacksp

    Got a space close to the venue and didn’t have to pay to park. Seems like a win.

  • JPK

    This sounds shady and annoying but I’m confused about why someone would drive there. Isn’t Metro maybe two blocks away?

    • ah

      Metro may not go close to OP’s house.

    • Anon Spock

      Driving in this town is in many cases faster and cheaper than metro.

      • Shaw

        +100. I’ve actually stopped taking Metro for trips that are less than eight or ten stops. When it isn’t rush hour, you can drive 30 blocks in about eight to ten minutes. Why on earth would you instead walk for five minutes to the train station, wait ten minutes for a train, spend ten minutes *on* the train, and then walk five more minutes from that station to wherever you’re going? And that’s all assuming you don’t need to transfer. Add 20 more minutes if that’s the case. Driving is so much faster, so much nicer, has no risk of snatch-and-grab robberies, and always direct. Plus, I can almost always find a parking spot within a block or two of where I’m going.

      • stacksp


      • TinkerTaylor

        Also, less stabby

  • Josh

    also, what does this line mean/how is it relevant to the story –

    “Once I went into the cinema to see my show I found out there was a premier for the New Yorker.”

    • AG

      That this was a special event being put on by an outside group, not a regular night for which the Atlantic is solely responsible.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    I live at Union Row and we had an issue with Kapnos when they first opened. The valet parking tried to use on street parking, which is illegal. They must have a contract with a garage or other parking facility to offer valet parking. For a one-off event, I don’t know the exact rule. I attended a party for WARL at a private home which had valet parking, but I believe they had contracted it out to reputable service which got the required permits.

  • DupontDC

    Somewhat on topic to this: does anyone know if Lauriol Plaza has valet parking permits? I always wonder if them kicking people out of the 4-5 spots in front of the place is actually legal.

    • stacksp

      That is another example. Happens all over the city. They have the lot behind Lauriol Plaza but I dont necessarily know about the spaces in front. They stick a sign out and no one bothers to challenge them.

    • Guest

      I believe Louriol has two parking lots at its disposal, one behind the building and one up the street at 18th and California. So I imagine they have valet parking permits for the lots, but not the street. At least I hope the city isn’t giving them street parking when they have other options.

      • stacksp

        They valet directly in front of the restaurant on the street all the time. They have been doing that for years

        • DupontDC

          I just question if they have valid permits, and if so, do they really have them for the 4-5 spots in front. It seems like a lot of space to run a valet. I will keep my eyes open next time I walk by.

        • saf

          Not at all legal

  • Mark

    We got into a beef once with the valet at Graffiato and were surprised when the management told us that they were completely unaffiliated with the guy: that he was just some dude with a vest, a bow tie, a placard and (I suppose) a dream. I wonder how many venues downtown enjoy this kind of weird symbiosis. It gives them total deniability when it comes to shady practices (like street parking, which is what we got that night).

  • saf

    They do that all the time. It’s illegal, it’s obnoxious, and the business always deny knowing anything about it. I hate valets.

  • Frank

    We’ve had valet at our house twice for events. You just apply for a one off permit, same as if you are moving or need a dumpster for construction work.
    There was a screening of a new movie at Atlantic last night, probably why they asked you what movie you were there for.
    Much ado about nothing.


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