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Seattle loosening up regulations for sidewalk cafes

Seattle is expanding policies that allow cafes and restaurants to move out onto the sidewalk. The blue arrow points to a sidewalk marker that indicates where the restaurant begins and the sidewalk ends. (SDOT)

If you enjoy eating a meal outside on the sidewalk in the rain while traffic drones by, you’re in luck. Seattle is expanding its program for sidewalk cafes, allowing more eateries to have spaces for outdoor dining.

At the moment nearly 400 food service businesses have permits to extend onto the sidewalk in over 30 neighborhoods. Getting one of your own requires applying for a permit from SDOT, which has been managing the program for 10 years.

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The new changes to the program will allow additional flexibility in the review process leading to more cafes around Seattle, formalize the pilot program to allow fence-free cafe as well as cafes in the curb space of the street (known as streateries), and update design standards so passersby can more easily walk by without slamming into diners.

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The original program for sidewalk cafes set out to model what is used in many European cities — as well as Portland and San Francisco, under the hope that more flexible regulations will “activate streets, create more vibrant neighborhoods, and support economic vitality.”

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These updated standards will only apply to new cafe applications, and not businesses who already have one in place, so customers won’t need to get up and move or anything.

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