July 6, 2006 issue

Tempers Flare Between Lot Management Solutions and Mellow Mushroom

Immobilization Practices Strike New Nerve

Story by Sam Calhoun

The practice of immobilizing cars in Boone has been much in the news lately, with accounts of encounters between parking lot enforcers and vehicle owners chronicled in newspapers, related at public meetings and discussed in countless private conversations.

Another encounter happened last Friday, June 30, in the parking lot of Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers on Rivers Street. The general manager of Mellow Mushroom, John Hollinshead, called Boone Police to the scene shortly after 3:00 p.m. to quell a situation that Hollinshead believes involved a slanderous statement directed at Mellow Mushroom by a private contractor working for the parking lot immobilization company, Lot Management Solutions.

Lot Management Solutions owner Jon Tate, parking lot enforcer David Hampton and Hollinshead of Mellow Mushroom have conflicting accounts of the occurrence.

According to Hollinshead, a construction worker parked his car in the Mellow Mushroom parking lot in the space closest to the parking lot’s boundary with Rivers Street around 2:00 p.m. He then went to Café Portofino and ate lunch with co-workers. When he finished eating, he returned to the Mellow Mushroom parking lot and found that his car had been immobilized.

However, the construction worker had been asked by co-workers at his jobsite to bring back a pizza, and approached Hampton, the parking lot enforcer, and asked what he (Hampton) thought of Mellow Mushroom.

According to Hollinshead and the construction worker, Hampton replied, “they spit in people’s food.” After hearing the comment, the construction worker decided against ordering a pizza at Mellow Mushroom and returned to Café Portofino where he told his friends at the bar what had just happened. The bartender at Portofino called Mellow Mushroom and alerted Hollinshead.

Hollinshead then approached Hampton who denied making the statement, but when Hollinshead asked him again—this time with the construction worker next to him—Hampton admitted that he had made the comment. At this point, Hollinshead called the police.

“They’re slandering our business when he’s supposedly trying to help us,” said Hollinshead.

According to Tate and Hampton, problems between their company and Mellow Mushroom began two weeks ago when two customers called the police concerning the owner of Mellow Mushroom, Bill Mink, who, allegedly was yelling obscenities at a Lot Management Solutions employee in the same parking lot. Allegedly, during that same situation, Mink threatened Hampton’s life and Hampton asked police for what he initially claimed was a “restraining order” but later said, “police told him not to come around me anymore.”

Concerning the Friday, June 30, issue, Hampton said he booted the construction worker’s car after he was in Portofino for 50 minutes. Hampton said the construction worker came out of Portofino, saw the boot and then proceeded toward Mellow Mushroom. On the way, Hampton said that the construction worker asked him what he thought of Mellow Mushroom. According to Hampton, he told the construction worker he never ate there.

When asked about the “spit” comment, both Tate and Hampton said they “never heard of that.”

After explaining that Phil Templeton owns the parking lot and that Templeton, not Mellow Mushroom, has contracted with Lot Management Solutions, Tate and Hampton said they thought the whole situation was rigged or set up because of the situation that occurred between Mink and Hampton two weeks ago. Tate and Hampton suggested that Mink and Hollinshead hired the construction worker to say the “spit” comment, contradicting their earlier comment that they never heard of the “spit” rumor.

Tate added, “I think Mellow Mushroom is a fine place to eat and for anyone who likes pizza, they should come eat there.”

Boone Police Officer Mike Norris responded to the call and took comments from both parties involved. After the police report was completed, Tate told Norris and Hollinshead that all further questions should be referred to Eggers and Eggers law firm.

“I’m going to pursue it if I can. It’s slander. There has to be something I can do,” said Hollinshead. Currently, Mellow Mushroom’s owner Mink is considering hiring an attorney and Mink has stated that he is fine with paying all court costs.

On Tuesday, July 4, Hollinshead spoke again about the incident and stated that he wants the Boone community to know that downtown businesses do not profit from the immobilization of cars.

“The businesses receive nothing but a headache from the booting people,” said Hollinshead.