BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – If you’ve ever parked in a private parking lot in Birmingham and had your car unexpectedly towed after visiting a business downtown, you’re not alone.

Now, the city needs citizens’ help to change the law to make it more fair for visitors, private lot owners and towing companies. A public hearing has been set for the end of the month to give residents a space to air their grievances.

El Barrio chef and co-owner Neville Baay said it’s something his customers deal with daily.

“It’s the only way they’re going to get paid; If they come to work and they don’t tow a car they don’t make a penny,” Baay said. “For this to be incentivized for only towing cars it puts them in a position where they don’t really care what’s happened prior or after, they just need to tow that car. And that, I think, sets the system up for failure.”

Baay said even when his customers have paid and there is time left on the pay clock, they still get towed.

“There’s a definite 15-to-20-minute window of people have paid either at the beginning or at the end and they still get towed, so it’s problematic,” Baay said. “We try and let people know as best as possible that no matter what you do, you probably shouldn’t park there because at some point, you’re going to get towed.”

Baay suggests better signage at the lots and better incentives for towing companies, so they do not rely solely on towing to make a profit.

“Nothing will ruin (things) quicker than (when) your car’s not where you left it, so it sucks because guests have a bad experience and then I have to get in my car and drive them to the tow lot so they can pick up their car that got towed,” Baay said.

Situations like the one at El Barrio are the reason why the city of Birmingham is holding a public hearing in three weeks.

Economic Development Committee Chair and Birmingham City Councilor Hunter Williams said one of the problems is that enforcement is not consistent across the board.

“There needs to be regulation around that because one thing that we hear very consistently is people coming in and not knowing that they were violating the rules to that lot,” Williams said. “We know people get frustrated when they’re towed. It’s less to hear about that and more to hear about is there something unusual – (are) there extenuating circumstances and what’s a good solution? We have to find a happy medium for those that own private property. We can’t take that away from them.”

Williams said he is hopeful a middle ground can be reached with a better experience for all.

CBS 42 has contacted both numbers on a sign in the parking lot adjacent to El Barrio to hear from lots directly and was told our request “may” be returned by an answering machine.

The public hearing will be during the council meeting that starts at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 29.