A longtime downtown Chicago valet is looking for a new job after his spot was unexpectedly taken away – a move that left him and the businesses he serves searching for answers.
Carlos Valencia, who works for Metropolitan Valet, has been parking cars at 43 E. Oak St. for more than 25 years and is beloved by the business owners and shoppers he has spent decades working with.
"He’s the best. He’s constantly taking care of me, always knows when I'm done with work," said Gabrielle Buttitta, a hair stylist in the area. "Pulls up my car, warms up my car. You’re never going to find someone like him he’s so accomdoating on Oak Street. So many employees on this street really rely on him and customers too. It’s really sad."
Valencia has a valid permit, but said he was shocked when he learned Tuesday that he could no longer work in the spot he’d been serving for nearly three decades.
Valencia said someone wearing a yellow vest removed his sign without explanation.
"I'm working, like every morning, and start takinig cars and when I come back I saw a the guy for the city remove my sign," he said. "I said, 'What's happening?' and he said, 'No more sign for you, everybody can't park here.' I ask him after 25 years at least I need notice in advance because I already took cars."
The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection confirmed Metropolitan Valet has a valid license, which was paid in full through June. They could not explain why the sign would be taken down. Chicago police said they did not remove the sign.
The Chicago Department of Transportation and the local alderman's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
"For any location, any place, it’s just not fair for someone to come kick you out," Valencia said.
Valencia said the job helps him support his wife and two children, but he’s most upset about being forced to leave a street he said has become like family.
"I have three generations taking cars," he said. "I saw customers coming with their students, then have a baby, now the baby is parking with me."