Mayor Durkan Announces Free Street Closure Permits Available for Restaurant and Business Operation During Pandemic

Seattle (July 22, 2020) – Building on the City’s free permits for sidewalk cafes and curb spaces, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced today an expansion of street closure permit options for one or more blocks as part of the City of Seattle’s efforts to support businesses during the ongoing public health crisis. These new permits will give restaurants and retail stores more space to operate while providing their patrons and passersby more space to move following Governor Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan. The City will begin accepting applications for these street closures on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

“We must all fight the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in our region. As we are seeing increasing cases from social gatherings and indoor dining, we can create additional opportunities for our restaurants and businesses to safely operate outdoors,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Building on our successful sidewalk café and curb space permit pilot, we are announcing the availability of citywide street closures for businesses and communities who wish to apply.”

Last month, the City announced free sidewalk café and curb space permits, which allow restaurants, retail stores, vending trucks and carts to operate in the sidewalk or curb space in front of their business. These new, temporary permit options help a business owner successfully and safety reopen by expanding their footprint outside. The permits are available for up to six months, and SDOT is expediting permit review to ensure eligible businesses can quickly access this new resource. To date, SDOT has received 92 sidewalk café and curb space permit applications. Business owners interested in applying for this type of permit should visit SDOT’s website for more information.

“I first heard the desire to have cafe streets from businesses in my district, who were thinking creatively about serving their customers while protecting public health. I expressed my early interest in seeing our city use our existing public space and rights-of-way to create a safe place to see one another and promote our small businesses.  It is important to maintain sidewalk space for people with mobility challenges while we promote economic activity. I believe we can do both, and I’m hopeful cafe streets will be a success for everyone using these pedestrianized spaces,” said Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6, Northwest Seattle).

In addition, the City of Seattle created a series of Phase 2 reopening toolkits for small businesses currently authorized to open per the Governor’s Safe Start plan. The reopening toolkits are not intended to provide public health guidance, but are meant to distill information from the state and county and make reopening guidance more accessible. The toolkits provide critical information for small business owners, including a reopening checklist, resources to access Personal Protective Equipment and financial assistance, testing information, and rent and commercial lease assistance. 

“Issuing street closure permits so Seattle can get back to business in a way that allows people to remain safe and healthy is key to an equitable economic recovery,” said Sam Zimbabwe, SDOT Director. “Staff are prioritizing street closure permit requests, offering coaching sessions, and soon we’ll have materials in multiple languages to support successful applications.”

As part of the permitting process, permit applicants will need to notify and demonstrate support from neighboring businesses and residents of proposed street closures. While typical SDOT permit costs are waived, applicants are responsible for any expenses related to the street closure proposal – such as barricades, temporary no parking signs, and tables and chairs. Applicants will be required to conform to all relevant state and local public health guidance. Permit review times vary based on the complexity and the preparedness of the applicant, so we encourage you to use our coaching resources. Stay tuned for more information regarding the eligibility criteria for these new street closure requests.

For more information or to schedule an applicant coaching session about these new temporary permit types, please visit our website or e-mail publicspace@seattle.gov.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the Puget Sound region, the City of Seattle has launched relief resources for vulnerable communities. Resources include rent assistance, child care for essential workers, free testing sites, shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness, small business support, and grocery vouchers.

The City has a comprehensive resource page for residents and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.