Free Seattle-area outdoor cafe street use permits extended through January 2023

Mar 9, 2022, 5:19 AM

outdoor dining, permits...

An outdoor dining structure along Ballard Avenue Northwest in June 2021. (MyNorthwest photo)

(MyNorthwest photo)

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has now signed into law legislation that extends free street use permits through this year, allowing for outdoor dining and retail opportunities. The program is dubbed “Safe Start.”

‘Outdoor dining is part of the fabric of our city:’ Seattle council moves on free street use

“Seeing how our Seattle community has embraced these new spaces is exciting and inspiring,” wrote Mayor Harrell in a news release.

“Continuing to offer free permits as we develop a long-term plan is a great way to support our small businesses, keep communities healthy, and bring energy and activation to our streets and neighborhoods. Safe Start permits are an important tool as we strive toward a flourishing, vibrant, welcoming One Seattle for all residents,” the mayor continued. “I am committed to achieving that future and grateful to Councilmember Strauss for his consistent and determined leadership supporting these outdoor spaces.”

The Seattle Department of Transportation reports that over 250 businesses throughout the Seattle area have taken part in the program since its inception in 2020 to curb the economic impacts of the pandemic.

“This step in the pathway to permanence for outdoor dining gives small businesses the predictability they need to invest in outdoor dining and add vibrancy to our city,” Councilmember Dan Strauss said.

“Mayor Harrell and I agree on the need for permanent regulations and this bill gives SDOT time to create guidelines that are right-sized for our city while giving our business community consistent regulations they can rely on. We know Seattleites love dining outdoors whether it is 37 degrees or 73 degrees – I am proud to be making outdoor dining a permanent reality for our community.”

The Seattle council has previously signaled that the streamlined process for making use of street space will continue past 2023, although fees are likely to be incorporated in some fashion.

Calvin W. Goings, director of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), indicated in February that the 200-odd permits cost the city roughly $420,000, or $630,000 when adjusted annually. The city has been able to leverage federal funds to subsidize the program — a reported $300,000 — but those dollars are largely tied to the COVID emergency response.

“I think the expectation is that there will be a new fee structure that’s attached to this,” Goings added. “We will have to understand … the expectation for [lost] parking revenues because that affects what we think we should be charging for parking spaces, and those have been changing over the last couple of years as well.”

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Free Seattle-area outdoor cafe street use permits extended through January 2023