WASHINGTON - Even the best-laid plans for a big night out on the town can sour if you can't find parking.
With restaurants and nightclubs bringing customers into neighborhoods already burdened by a lack of parking, valet parking is a staple of nightlife in Washington.
A just-launched mobile app attempts to make valet parking more hassle-free.
ValPark Mobile now lets diners at 10 popular D.C. restaurants speed the process of finding valet service, paying for it and waiting for their cars after the meal.
"Typically, you pull up at a valet, they give you a ticket and you have to pay cash," says Wayne Johnson, CEO of ValPark Mobile. "Seventy-five percent of valets only take cash, which means you have to go and find an ATM."
In the service's initial launch, participating establishments include OYA, The Park at 14th, Lima, Opera Ultra Lounge, Capitale, Cuba Libre Restaurant, Fogo de Chao, Shadow Room, Proof and SAX.
Johnson says 80 more locations are expected to be added in the next month.
The free app, currently only available in the Apple app store, allows users to browse locations where valet service is available and to see the cost.
During the signup process, users enter their vehicle information, as well as a payment method.
The transaction can be accomplished before the driver pulls up to the restaurant.
"The valet receives an alert that you've paid. They can then check you in by your tag number, your name or your confirmation number that you received via email," says Johnson.
If you've ever waited impatiently for a valet to retrieve your car, the process of being reunited with your vehicle can begin while you're finishing dessert.
"Before you even step outside you can open the app, and by the time you get outside, (the car) will be waiting for you," says Johnson.
Johnson says ValPark Mobile is parterning with U Street Parking, one of the largest valet parking services in the region.
"Hopefully we'll take over such venues as FedEx Field, and possibly the airports," says Johnson.
"We're looking to expand pretty quickly here."
Apps for valet service also are in use in other cities.
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