Apparently unsatisfied with the current array of food and drink venues already piling up on Capitol HIll, Seattle City Council member — and incumbent candidate in Tuesday’s election — Richard Conlin is pushing forward regulatory reform to make it even easier to open a restaurant in Seattle:
The idea came up from the small business community during our work on the Economic Recovery Strategy in response to the Great Recession ( more information). We know that small business is a key generator of jobs and economic activity so we asked representatives to tell us what the City could do to make it more likely that new businesses could open.
They pointed out that it was necessary to go to the State (including the Liquor Control Board), the County (Health Department), and the City (Finance for licenses, Planning and Development for construction/renovation permits, Fire Department for assembly permits, etc.) in order to open a restaurant. Different agencies required different kinds of architectural drawings. Some regulations were even in conflict – the Liquor Control Board and the City have different specifications for the height of the fence to separate restaurant and bar spaces (required in order to separate areas where food is served and minors are permitted from the area that focuses on alcohol service where minors are prohibited).
A retail study showed that, as of 2010, the core area of the Hill around Broadway had nearly 200 restaurants and bars operating along it streets. Capitol HIll in 2011 and again in 2012 saw an even bigger explosion of food+drink investment in the neighborhood.
Restaurant and bar owners CHS has spoken to over the years do occasionally complain of the issues and delays they encounter trying to push a project to fruition while we also hear from the established players every now and again about red taping gumming up plans for sidewalk seating or new signage. Many of the larger projects now turn to expensive consultants to help navigate the process.
CHS reported on the early push for the reforms in July.
Conlin says the City’s Office of Economic Development has entered into a “memorandum of understanding” with “relevant agencies” to:
- Create a Restaurant Core Team to support the process and work through implementation plans for their respective agencies.
- Identify and help resolve conflicting, confusing and inefficient regulatory requirements for restaurants as part of a formal implementation plan.
- Develop an online guide to assist people through the regulatory process, which Seattle will host on our growSeattle website.
Conlin’s announcement says the city has committed $75,000 to pursue the reform.