Sidewalk cafes bloom with summer sun



Just based on today’s Land Use Information Bulletin, there seems to be an increase in sidewalk café permit applications in Seattle as the summer weather sets in.

Sidewalk cafes must maintain required pedestrian clearances from tree pits and other public facilities.

I’m delighted by this. Sidewalk cafés make our streets more inviting, present opportunities for neighbors to meet and get to know one another at a “third place,” (other than at home or at work) and contribute overall to a vibrant street scene.

I spent last week on the East Coast.  From Brooklyn to Brunswick I enjoyed dining on rooftops, on sidewalks, on boardwalks and more.  The outside spaces were packed with people, whether it was a sweltering 90 degrees in New York City or a foggy 4th of July along the fishing docks in Camden, Maine. Creating places where people can see and be seen brings more people… and in these neighborhoods the restaurants and pubs are flourishing.

A few years ago, Seattle eased its policy on sidewalk-cafe permits, allowing restaurants to provide table service and serve alcohol outside, (as long as they maintain a minimum 6-foot pedestrian right of way on public sidewalks downtown, or 5 feet in other parts of the city).

Café Terrace at Night – Van Gogh’s well-loved painting of a sidewalk café in Arles.

Now, there are two types of sidewalk seating permitted in Seattle: “Table and Chairs” and “Sidewalk Café.”

With a Table and Chairs permit, a restaurant owner may set out tables and chairs on the sidewalk right next to the business. While provided for their patrons, these tables and chairs are also available for use by the general public. The business can’t provide table service, and alcohol may not be consumed on location. The business must remove the tables and chairs daily and can’t make any fixed improvements (such as adding a railing).

Sidewalk Café permits, on the other hand, require the restaurant owner to add a railing, and allow for table service and for alcohol to be served. See a map of restaurants in Seattle that hold sidewalk café permits here.

Sidewalk cafés must be accessible and detectable per American with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.

Apply for a sidewalk café permit.

So, if I might so suggest: Take advantage of this week’s forecast. Enjoy a summer night and support a local business.  You might follow the lead of the 1st Hill Neighborhood Association – commit to spend $25 this week in YOUR neighborhood.  You’ll contribute to you’re the financial well-being of your friendly local businesses, and experience Seattle at its best.  Dine al fresco!

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