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Weigh in on proposed changes to Seattle’s sidewalk cafe and streatery rules

Lost Lake’s Streatery (Image: SDOT)

The Seattle Department of Transportation is iffy on the whole “bike lane” thing but it is ready to go big on one urbanist element of its cityscape plans — sidewalk cafes:

It’s a space for you to enjoy a drink or food outside. Not only are they fun for everyone around Seattle to enjoy, but they provide economic support to businesses and activate our streets. Businesses who are interested in having a sidewalk café will need a permit with us. We’ve managed the sidewalk café program for nearly ten years.

After around a decade of new sidewalk eating and drinking areas at around 400 cafes, bars, and restaurants under the program, the City Council is readying legislation to update — and hopefully improve — the program under what SDOT says are three key aspects:

  • Allow cafés in more locations around Seattle.
  • Formalize pilot programs to allow fence free cafes and cafes in the curb space of the street (these are known as streateries).
  • Update design standards to make it easier to walk on sidewalks.

The new legislation would also formalize pilots like the Streatery program that has created spaces for patrons to hang out and enjoy food and libations at venues including Lost Lake, Mamnoon, Montana, and Sugar Plum.

To help shape the new rules and to find out what you like and don’t like about the proposals, SDOT is collecting feedback through Monday:

Read up on the details on our fact sheet. The full documents of the ordinance and draft Director’s Rule are also available on our webpage. You’re invited to provide comments on the Determination of Non-Significance. Comments are accepted in any of the following ways:

  • Email:
  • Phone: 206-684-5268
  • Mail:  

    Seattle Department of Transportation
    Street Use – Public Space Management
    P.O. Box 34996
    Seattle, WA  98124-4996

Comments must be provided no later than 5 PM on Monday, April 22, 2019.  Appeals must be submitted no later than 5 PM on Monday, April 29, 2019. Details about the appeals process can be found in the Determination of Non-Significance posted on our webpage.

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16 thoughts on “Weigh in on proposed changes to Seattle’s sidewalk cafe and streatery rules

  1. That little block outside of Lost lake would be lovely if it were closed off to cars altogether. It’s not good for much with the park directly north of it.

  2. My experience with businesses being allowed to expand into the sidewalk is that they expand beyond what their permit allows, blocking pedestrians from using the sidewalk. It does not help that the city has been reluctant to even approach violators until after Labor Day each year. And even after they approach them in the off-season, it comes with no penalties for the businesses.

    I suggest that there be a minimum sidewalk width before permits are issued for the business to take over part of the sidewalk. There should be enough sidewalk left-over for three people to walk side-by-side. So that people going on opposite directions would be able to use the sidewalk for its intended purpose, while the business operates out of the sidewalk.

    Also those permits should be easily revoked if it turns out that granting them was not a good idea for the neighborhood’s needs or if the businesses are not being restrained by the permit’s terms.

    • I’ll take a sidewalk cafe anyday over the alternative of a drugged out gutter punk or vagrant’s filthy tent filled with loot and trash.

  3. I would like to see some data on the useage of the “streateries” (? “streeteries). My anecdotal experience is that they don’t get much use, and they do for sure mean less parking.

    • Yes, making a core neighborhood safe for cars is definitely a paramount concern.

      Or should be.

      I mean…upon entering Capitol Hill in their SUV, a person should be able to park within .5 seconds very near their destination.

      If this means no “streateries” or bulldozing Cal Anderson to build a massive parking garage…we’ll thats just good public policy.

      • Not really, but what use are empty streeteries nine months of the year? If you figure in rainy days, they are not used very much. Parking spaces, on the other hand, are in great demand, are used every day, and the vehicle parked their often brings a customer to the restaurant otherwise attached to the streetery. So, my question. Are streeteries a legitimate attempt to activate street fronts or a backdoor way to keep vehicles out of certain areas?

    • Cmon, Bob and Glenn. You know better than that– to post anything even *remotely* in favor of autos and parking– lest you be immediately predictably cast as a car-loving, smog-belching, Trump-loving, environment-hating, right winger; immediately castigated and told you should be banished to Bellevue. What were you thinking?

      Now go to your rooms…. post ads to sell your cars, buy $2000 bicycles (or more), and if you’re *really* desperate you can use Car2Go– but don’t tell anyone. Meanwhile, make a big deal about telling everyone how many Metro trips you’ve taken just this week alone– but throw in a half a dozen Lyft rides when nobody’s looking. Any questions?

      • This will come across as snarky, but it sounds like living in one of the densest and most walkable and transit-accessible parts of the state isn’t a good fit for you three. There are many other places that might be a better place to live/work/play if car parking and car traffic is what you prioritize in your life. The rest of us love being able to walk to everyday wants and needs, and sidewalk cafes (and these “streateries”) are one part of that magic formula.