City of Seattle Extends Free Street Use Permits for Businesses Through October 31, 2021

City Will Provide Free Tent and Heating Permits to Help Businesses Maintain Outdoor Operations During COVID-19 Pandemic

SEATTLE (October 21, 2020) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced today that the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) temporary street use permits are extended through October 31, 2021. These free permits allow small businesses to expand their operations outside to help ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while remaining in compliance with local and statewide public health guidance and requirements. This extension impacts free sidewalk café and curb space permits as well as free street closure permits. In addition, the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) will immediately begin issuing free tent permits and heating permits to help businesses maintain operations during the colder, rainier months ahead.

“The COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic devastation has caused so many of our small businesses to face the potential of closing their doors forever,” said Mayor Durkan. “For many of our small businesses, the ability to operate outside – even at a limited capacity – provides a much-needed lifeline during these challenging times. At the City, we’re committed to helping our small businesses safely and feasibly reopen and sustain operations even as it gets rainy and cold. That’s why we’re extending our free street use permits for over a year, and reducing barriers to access so small businesses can stay open outside in a way that’s safe and comfortable for their customers.”

“This is an important step – we need to continue using our rights-of-way to promote and sustain economic activity amidst this pandemic. Businesses need predictability to weather the winter using Street Cafés, and these permits provide that ability. I thank the Mayor’s team for creating these new guidelines quickly. Café Streets should be a permanent feature in Seattle. Today’s extension is another step in that direction – to test what works and what doesn’t work for businesses, neighborhoods, and people over the next year,” said Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6, Northwest Seattle). “Even before COVID-19 I wanted to see places like Ballard Avenue and streets throughout Seattle pedestrianized so that we can utilize and enjoy the public space we already have in our neighborhoods. Café Streets and Street Cafés have important economic value in our neighborhoods and city. We will get through this pandemic together and Café Streets are one way we thrive during this time.”

To date, SDOT has issued 151 free street use permits, including 11 blocks that have been opened for small businesses in neighborhoods across Seattle.

The free sidewalk café and curb space permits allow restaurants, retail stores, vending trucks and carts to operate in the sidewalk or curb space while the free street closure permits allow businesses to operate in one or more blocks in front of their business. As part of the permitting process for a street closure, applicants need to notify and demonstrate support from neighboring businesses and residents of proposed open streets for businesses. While typical 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 adhere to all relevant state and local public health guidance. For more information, including how to schedule an applicant coaching session, please visit SDOT’s website or e-mail publicspace@seattle.gov.

“Extending street permits for dining until next fall will help us by accommodating more diners through the winter months and into next spring and summer. The Mayor has continued to listen to small business owners and implement much needed changes to help Seattle restaurants keep employees and customers safe, and financially survive the pandemic,” said Linda Morton, President, Seattle Restaurant Alliance.

“The street eatery permits have been a huge help in staying afloat for us and fellow restauranteurs,” said Charlie Anthe & Rumi Ohnui, owners of Moshi Moshi in Ballard. “Even with colder weather arriving, knowing that these permits will be available to us without interruption relieves a lot of anxiety about planning, and gives us the ability to adapt to customer seating preferences through the next year.”

“This is great news, now we can really put our energy and resources into making our outside dining space a true extension of our interior dining room. I am so excited to be able to treat our guests to the safety and peace of mind that comes with dining in the open air while enjoying the classic mamnoon experience,” said Jen Kligerman, General Manager, mamnoon on Capitol Hill.

“Being able to dine at an outdoor café or browse merchandise displays on the sidewalk is great for residents and businesses alike“ said Marci Carpenter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington. “These programs can only be successful, however, if businesses provide a safe, straightforward pathway for all pedestrians to continue to access sidewalks.“

In addition, the Seattle Fire Department will immediately begin issuing free, 90-day tent permits to help small businesses continue their operations outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. All free tent permits must align with SFD regulations, including complying with the fire code. Refunds will also be provided for tent permits issued since July 1, 2020, when the purpose was to move a business or service outside given public health restrictions on indoor use. The permits are limited to 90-days due to the need for frequent inspection to maintain compliance with building and fire codes.

In addition, SFD will also issue free heating permits to businesses operating outdoors due to COVID-19, effective immediately and continuing through October 31, 2021. Permittees who already paid for a heating permit since July 1, 2020 will be refunded. Outdoor dining equipment can now remain outside 24/7, however the City recommends that a business owner bring their equipment inside during a severe weather event.

Refunds may take up to six-eight weeks to be issued by the City. Interested applicants can review this flyer and contact permits@seattle.gov for more information or questions about a refund.

SDOT has also created winter weather guidelines for all equipment a small business owner may need to operate outside during the coming months. Business owners can review this flyer with more information.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve reimagined how to use the public right-of-way to create opportunities and tools to support our City’s small businesses,” said Seattle Department of Transportation Director Sam Zimbabwe. “We got an overwhelmingly positive response from both residents and businesses for our temporary street café and retail permit options. By extending the duration of the permits and publishing winter weather guidance for permit holders, we’re providing certainty for our small businesses so they can rely on these tools year round.” 

The City continues to develop creative new policies to help small business owners operate outside in a way that’s comfortable, safe, and healthy for their customers. The City will have more information on new initiatives in the coming weeks.