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Restaurants push to keep to-go cocktails and street dining

Travel lane and parking space revised for covered dining in downtown Seattle. (SDOT/Flickr)

Cocktails to go have only been allowed in Washington state since last May, but they’re a big hit with struggling restaurants.

Seattle ups its outdoor dining game, Seahawks-style

The state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board asked the Legislature to keep them legal through at least June 2023. This week, the Legislature agreed, passing a bill that requires a study of how it’s working.

“We really took a big step on this stuff because it was important and the industry was hit so hard,” said Brian Smith of the liquor board.

“We can prove ourselves to do this safely,” said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association.

Restaurants are pushing to keep many COVID-19-era innovations, such as street dining.

“We’re looking for ways to increase revenue that’s not locked into the four walls of our restaurant,” said local restaurateur Ethan Stowell.

His company is focused on outdoor dining, which is where people want to eat.

“The patio dining has been a huge lifeline for us. I hope it sticks around. Honestly, I hope it sticks around forever,” Stowell said.

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The Seattle Department of Transportation issued nearly 180 free permits under a special program that allows dining structures in public rights of ways, including parking spaces, through the end of October.

Now, the city is considering what to do in the long term.

“We’re still wanting to work over the next few months to provide some more certainty on what comes next,” said Alyse Nelson of SDOT’s street use division.

Questions include how much to charge for permits and what kind of designs to require.

City officials said they hope to have a better idea this summer on what might be allowed in the long term.

By Graham Johnson, KIRO 7 News

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