Popular neighborhood business allowed to stay open after Seattle council loosens land use rules

Mar 16, 2021, 6:02 AM | Updated: 10:27 am

Yonder Bar Cider, land use rules...

Greenwood's Yonder Cider. (Photo courtesy of Yonder Bar)

(Photo courtesy of Yonder Bar)

Seattle councilmembers approved legislation Monday, loosening a series of land use rules imposed on businesses operating out of homes.

Seattle aims to loosen land use rules after Yonder Cider closure

The legislation came partly in response to the forced closure of a popular Greenwood business called Yonder Bar, which had been selling cider to go in cans and growlers. Yonder operated out of Caitlin Braam’s garage for seven months before a neighbor’s frequent complaints to the Health Department and Liquor Control Board got it shut down. At the time, the neighbor pointed out that operating a business that sold alcohol out of a residence blocks away from a school violated Seattle’s existing land use codes.

After Councilmember Dan Strauss introduced his “Bringing Business Home” proposal — which sought to relax those codes — Braam was notified by the city’s Department of Construction and Inspection that she was allowed to reopen, but would have to shut down permanently if the legislation failed to pass.

If she had been forced to stay closed until the bill passed, she would have had to wait until its effective date on April 15 to begin operating again.

On Monday, “Bringing Business Home” passed by an overwhelming 8-1 margin, with Councilmember Alex Pedersen operating as the lone “no” vote. The bill will only be in place for a year, in hopes of providing an “even playing field” for businesses like Yonder Cider over the course of the pandemic.

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Previous land use codes had required businesses run out of homes to have customers visit by appointment only, and to have “no evidence of the home occupation visible” from the exterior, with no more than two employees who aren’t also residents of the home itself.

“Many of our most successful businesses were born out of garages,” Councilmember Stauss said Monday shortly after the bill’s passage. “We need to support entrepreneurs, providing them the flexibility to operate out of their garages and grow into vacant storefronts.”

Councilmember Alex Pedersen outlined his opposition to the measure in a blog post last week, saying that he was “disappointed this bill was rushed to the full City Council,” and that it “could do more harm than good” to small businesses in Seattle. He also noted that the bill appeared to largely be motivated by an email campaign launched by Braam, “rather than organically arriving from a diverse or citywide effort.”

“While it’s possible there are some aspiring home business that could benefit, I do not think it’s appropriate to make citywide land use changes based on anecdotes or conjecture,” Pedersen said.

Braam praised the legislation after it was passed out of committee last week.

“We appreciate the City Council’s openness and forward thinking on this topic,” Braam said Monday. “Starting a small business – COVID or not – is hard and it’s expensive. Allowing small businesses to safely and securely operate out of their homes not only frees them of the financial burden and stress that come with long-term commercial leases, it gives them a chance to be a vibrant and contributing part of their community.”

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Popular neighborhood business allowed to stay open after Seattle council loosens land use rules