Yonder Cider allowed to reopen while it awaits crucial Seattle council vote on garage businesses
After the pandemic hit, Caitlin Braam’s long-time dream of opening a cider bar was dashed. Instead, she opened Yonder Cider out of her garage in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, selling cans and growlers to go.
“We have our Liquor Control license, we also have a city business license,” Braam said. “So when we started looking into this, we did call the city to ask if this was possible because we knew we’re in a single family zoned area. They were like, ‘go ahead, the way something will happen is if a lot of people complain.’ Well, one person decided they didn’t like Yonder Bar and complained a lot to the city, the Liquor Control Board, and the health department.”
Three weeks ago, despite enormous support from the neighborhood, Yonder Bar was forced to close its physical space. But a new bill, sponsored by Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss, wants to put Braam back in business, and make other existing home businesses legal.
“Bringing Business Home is a small business flexibility bill that changes a few land use codes,” Strauss said. “This is an interim change, so it’s only lasting for one year. There is already a sunset date in place. It provides flexibility with the land use code so that entrepreneurs can use their garage to turn their dreams into businesses that succeed. So that as we emerge out of this pandemic, we’re able to fill those vacant storefronts with businesses that are home grown.”
Five days ago, Braam was notified by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) that she was allowed to reopen immediately, but would have to shut down permanently if the bill doesn’t pass.
“We hope that on Wednesday the bill passes through the Land Use Committee,” Braam said. “Then it will go to full council on Monday, and if it passes we get to stay open. It’ll take 30 days for the bill to go into effect after the mayor signs it that next day, so it won’t be until April 15 that new businesses can open and take advantage of this. But we’re excited that we got the blessing to be able to open up for now.”
Braam says without Yonder Bar, she wouldn’t have been able to fund the commercial space in Ballard that she’ll be opening in July.
“Yonder Bar allowed us to start at home without rent and be able to build a groundswell, and a community, and a following, which then allowed us to sign a lease for our new taproom in Ballard,” she said. “So that is the hope for this. This isn’t a long-term solution for businesses — it’s a one-year period that people can work in their homes. The hope is that they build up this business, build up the viability of it, build up that following, and then move into a longer term space. Why not take advantage of this and get some new businesses incubated so that in six months, a year, they can find a big, beautiful space to move into.”
If the bill passes, it will remove some of the restrictions in place for home businesses. Currently, home owners still have to be able to fit a car in the garage, they can only do business by appointment, they’re only permitted to have a tiny sign outside, and they can’t look like a business from the outside.
But both Councilmember Strauss and Braam are certain that residential neighborhoods will not become business districts.
“The biggest thing I keep telling people is this doesn’t take away the licensing you need,” Braam said. “I still had to go through three months of Liquor Control Board licensing to have Yonder Bar in our garage. The health department is another process if you’re having food. This bill does not take any of that away. It is a process, and it won’t be overnight that businesses start popping up.”
“If noise, smell, lighting, or glare are creating an issue, those are still aspects of the code that someone can file a complaint and that business could be shut down,” Strauss said. “If you’re roasting coffee out of your garage and somebody doesn’t like the smell of coffee, that could be a problem.”
Councilmember Strauss says this was an emergency bill rushed through to help small businesses in the COVID pandemic. If passed, it would be a pilot program that could lead to something more permanent.
“We know some of the most successful businesses in our country are born out of people’s garages and we shouldn’t be creating roadblocks to having entrepreneurs turn their dreams into businesses,” he said.
Click here to visit Yonder Bar or to sign the letter of support for the Bringing Business Home bill.