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DENVER — The new paid parking policy at Cherry Creek Shopping Center is turning customers away and hurting business, according to a longtime business owner in the mall.

“I’ve watched all my customers, our loyal customers that have built up our business in the state of Colorado, want to go elsewhere,” said Mike Murphy, owner of the Steve Madden store in the mall.

Murphy said business is down nearly half.

“After we saw all of these negative comments, and I’ve heard and spoken to many, many customers that refuse to come to Cherry Creek,” Murphy said.

The mall started paid parking about five weeks ago after it said noncustomers were parking there and doing business elsewhere.

“We’re getting feedback from customers, from merchants and you know, we certainly remain open to making changes down the road, but right now we’re going to stay the course,” said Cherry Creek general manager Nick LeMasters.

Murphy said in eight years the parking garage has never been full and nowadays he says it’s completely empty.

“If the parking lot was full, I would be the first one trying to protect my customers saying they need a spot,” Murphy said.

Since the first hour of parking is free, Murphy is offering to pay customers’ second hour for the rest of the month.

“There are stores in Cherry Creek, they’re nowhere else, they’re only here. They shouldn’t feel like they’re rushed,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he will soon decide whether or not to renew the lease on the Cherry Creek store.

“This is the heart and soul I want to try to keep it here in Cherry Creek, but we got to find a way to get the customers back here,” Murphy said.