CHICAGO — It started out as a fun night for Melissa Garcia.
Dinner, drinks and partying in the Wicker Park neighborhood until the wee hours.
But when they decided to call it a night and go home around 6 a.m., Garcia and her date couldn't find the car they parked on North Milwaukee Ave.
That's because their car, along with an unofficial 300 other vehicles were towed when Chicago's Winter Overnight Parking Ban went into effect at 3 a.m. Saturday morning, according to the Department of Streets and Sanitation.
Standing outside the Chicago Auto Pound at 701 N. Sacramento Ave., Garcia explained she and her date had come from their night out to retrieve their vehicle. They realized their error when they read the street signs posted near their missing vehicle.
"We knew it was towed (due the ban)," Garcia said. "But then we couldn't find a number to call. Someone said 'call 311', but they weren't answering. It took us a long time to find out where it was."
Several other drivers, who declined to be identified, admitted they also had been enjoying a fun Friday night before making the impound lot the final stop of their evening.
"The bulk of the tows was from the North Side," Streets & Sanitation spokesperson Anne Sheahan said.
A steady stream of other drivers looking to reclaim their vehicles showed up over the course of the morning in taxis, on foot or in the cars of friends or relatives.
Arvin Go brought his brother-in-law to the pound to retrieve the car he had parked on Clark Street.
"It's his fault," Go said. "Rules are rules. He should be more attentive to the signs. That will be a lesson learned."
Miss F. Simmon, who lives in South Shore, had to come all the way north to retrieve her car.
"My son was driving the car," Simmon said. "I totally think that it's unfair if it's not snowing. Where are people supposed to park if they don't have garages or parking spots? It's really ridiculous. I think they're doing it to raise revenue."
Logan Square resident Alfonso Barajas was frustrated but resigned about his car being towed from Milwaukee Avenue.
"There should have been some public notice," Barajas said. "Maybe years ago [I'd be angry], but you get used to the constant feeling of getting screwed over the years. I see why more people use bikes or IGO. It makes sense not to own a car."
The 301 first night tows is substantially higher than the 188 vehicles towed last year and the 215 from the year before, both which occurred on weeknights.
"It is an increase over two years," Sheahan said. "But there were many, many more out there [that avoided being towed]."
But does Sheahan believe drivers learned their lesson on the first night of the winter parking ban?
"We certainly hope so," Sheehan said. "Moving forward, people know they need to adhere to posted signs."