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Now you just need a garage for your pandemic cider bar: New bill would make it easier to run ‘home-based’ businesses in Seattle

Yonder Cider (Image: City of Seattle)

Don’t mess with a Seattle neighborhood cider bar. While solutions for the city’s biggest problems around equity, police violence, and homelessness have been elusive, the Seattle City Council is quickly nailing down the red tape that allowed complaints to take down a much loved neighborhood business in Greenwood.

A new “Bringing Business Home” bill introduced Monday would give more flexibility in city codes for small businesses run out of apartments, homes, and garages while Seattle remains under its COVID-19 emergency:

Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6 – Northwest Seattle), Chair of the City’s Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee, together with Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez (Pos. 9 – Citywide), introduced C.B. 120001 on Monday, titled “Bringing Business Home, a Small Business Flexibility Bill,” in an effort to provide additional support and a means towards economic recovery for small businesses adversely affected by current land use codes during the pandemic. After hearing from a small business impacted by the current rules, Strauss drafted, and González co-sponsored, legislation to adopt interim regulations to allow businesses greater flexibility to operate out of garages and residences.

“The proposed changes recognize that while the current COVID-19 economic recession has forced small, independent businesses to find creative solutions to survive, City regulations have not kept up,” the announcement reads. “This legislation allows small businesses to bring their businesses home, reducing one of their largest expenses, rent.”

The new legislation is hoped to loosen the environment for business run from non-commercial properties by temporarily suspending a set of requirements “for the next year” required of current home-based businesses:

  • Customer visits are by appointment only
  • There is no evidence of the home-based business visible from the exterior of the structure
  • No more than two persons who are not residents of the building may work in a home-based business
  • The home-based business shall not cause a substantial increase in on-street parking congestion or a substantial increase in traffic within the immediate vicinity

Home-based businesses would also be allowed “to operate in a house’s off-street parking stall or garage and have one non-illuminated sign with the business name if it is not larger than 720 square inches,” the city says.

The legislation has emerged quickly after neighbor complaints forced the shutdown of cider provider Yonder Bar, a garage-based business in Greenwood.

The city council announcement points out that the city’s smallest businesses are disproportionately run by BIPOC owners:

Seattle has over 4,000 active business licenses for restaurants, caterers, and other businesses in the food industry; the 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs estimates that nearly 48 percent of the firms in the accommodation and food services industry in the Seattle metropolitan area are owned by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

The council’s announcement does not address how the legislation could impact renters and apartment dwellers where tenants will also be subject to lease terms and building rules.

The city council’s land use committee will take the proposal up Wednesday with a final vote expected in March.


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James T.
James T.
9 days ago

As long as Nimby’s take a back seat on this one. I love it!

Nope
Nope
9 days ago

You need multiple permits to rent out a bedroom on Airbnb, but can open up a bar in your garage ?!

CD Balooka
CD Balooka
9 days ago
Reply to  Nope

I like the idea of this, but you have a good point.

Patty
Patty
9 days ago
Reply to  Nope

You are hilariously correct. Just like you can legally smoke weed here and lawmakers are trying to pass a bill legalizing small amounts of hard drugs . . . But shame on you if you want to play poker with your friends online (PokerStars) or go to a cigar lounge. Both are illegal in WA state.

Nothing makes sense anymore. 😀

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
7 days ago
Reply to  Patty

But shame on you if you want to play poker with your friends online (PokerStars) or go to a cigar lounge. Both are illegal in WA state.

Follow the money. The only thing that speaks louder than money in this country is people joining forces and demanding change.

…and of course the media determining it’s worth covering.

Jeff Busby
Jeff Busby
9 days ago

Hmmmmm…..Alley Way Bar between Summit and Bellevue? We can serve all the car prowlers. ahhahahhahaaaa

Bruce Nourish
Bruce Nourish
9 days ago

I love this idea, and I wish we could make it permanent. Lots of small garage/hole-in-the-wall businesses dotted around Seattle would make the city more interesting, diverse and entrepreneurial. Current zoning seems to regard commerce (and multifamily housing) as a necessary evil that must be walled off into slivers of property around arterials.

Nope
Nope
8 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Nourish

I like to have a few rental RV on the back of my property. Don’t imagine the neighbors would appreciate it though. Zoning.

Eric
Eric
7 days ago
Reply to  Nope

I’m in some Greenwood-area Facebook groups. This cider “bar” (really a small retail shop for to-go sales only) has come up a few times. I’ve seen several of this business’s immediate neighbors say they love the place, and not one say they’re glad it’s illegal. Obviously there’s at least one who feels this way, the one who issued the complaint.

The home business law we have now seems to be based on an assumption that nobody wants to see any evidence of business activity on their block (no customer visits allowed without prior appointments, no signs of appreciable size, no more than 2 non-resident employees). Maybe it’s time to have a conversation about whether that assumption is true anymore. So many people are speaking out in favor of this bar being allowed to operate in a residential area, and few are complaining about it.

csy
csy
8 days ago

>>> “….City regulations have not kept up,” the announcement reads.

What about HOA regulations?

Anti-itnA
Anti-itnA
8 days ago
Reply to  csy

Just like folks took the initiative and pushed for a change in city regs, people who are constrained by their HOA bylaws will need to take action to get those changed as well.
Do you have additional suggestions?

csy
csy
7 days ago
Reply to  Anti-itnA

Probably the same way it happened in GW — i.e. break the rules -> attract media attention -> shame leaders into making change “in name of equity, SJ, yada”. Seems like the only way to get anything moving in Seattle nowadays.

Been through 10+ years of hard-headed, price-gouging HOAs in Seattle and had enough — it’s been almost 2 years out of them and couldn’t be happier.