August 15, 5:15 PM click here to comment > 4
New policy expands sidewalk café options for restaurants and bars
These are tough times for business, especially small businesses like local bars and restaurants. We need to do everything we can to support them during this challenging period. Sometimes that’s as simple as changing a small rule that’s getting in the way.
We’ve heard from local restaurants that the city could be more flexible in permitting sidewalk cafés. Existing rules limit sidewalk café alcohol service to areas immediately adjacent to a building. Many cities have found ways to accommodate other kinds of sidewalk cafés, including those that are detached from the building. We agreed that it would be a good thing to allow here in Seattle. But we had to go to the Washington State Liquor Control Board and seek a rule change first.
Last week the Washington State Liquor Control Board adopted an interim policy allowing Seattle restaurants to establish sidewalk cafés in more locations, including in the public right-of-way. The new rules give restaurants more flexibility, including an option for curbside sidewalk cafés. This will help businesses offer more options to their customers — and it does so in a way that is good for pedestrians too.
Our office worked closely with the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Department of Planning and Development and the Liquor Control Board to get this done. The change was our proposal, but the new policy will apply statewide, and is effective immediately. Restaurants with an on-premise liquor licenses will be able to extend their food and alcohol service to public right-of-way areas if their request to the Liquor Control Board is approved and if they are given a permit from the City of Seattle.
“We support the City of Seattle’s efforts to make outside dining more accessible,” said Washington State Liquor Control Board Chair Sharon Foster. “This has been a collaborative process that we hope will be positive for licensees choosing to participate. While the effort was shouldered by the City of Seattle, this interim policy will apply statewide.”
“We’re really excited about this new rule change,” said Josh McDonald, of the Seattle Restaurant Alliance. “This will help bars and restaurants expand and provide a better climate for new customers, and will also help with the city’s plan to activate outdoor spaces including sidewalks, plazas and parks.”
This new policy also supports Seattle’s comprehensive Nightlife Initiative, which aims to maintain public safety and provide businesses with greater flexibility to adapt to the market demands of residents and visitors. Last month we took the first step toward changing state policy to allow extended service hours. More information about the Nightlife Initiative and its components can be found here. As always, be sure to check back on our blog for news on extended service hours and the Nightlife Initiative.
Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn