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Capitol Hill’s proliferation of street dining tents and sidewalk patios can stay into 2022 — and maybe beyond

The Wildrose’s new street patio (Image: Wildrose)

The decks, tents, pergolas, and gazebos set up on the streets of Capitol Hill to create a safer food and drink experience during the pandemic will remain a part of the neighborhood’s streetscape — until next spring, at least.

The Seattle City Council this week approved an extension of the city’s emergency “Cafe Streets Program” through May of 2022.

CHS reported here in March on the proliferation of outdoor dining and seating around Pike/Pine as venues did what they could to safely expand capacity during COVID-19 restrictions. The new seating areas on streets and sidewalk areas have emerged outside bars and restaurants across the Hill from 15th Ave E to E Olive Way.

The new extension might have some restaurants and bars that decided to sit out the pandemic without investing in street cafe infrastructure changing their minds. E Pike’s Wildrose is one notable bar joining the wave late with its new patio seating joining the street just in time for Pride.

Meanwhile, the pandemic may have achieved an urbanist goal the city’s pilots and programs could not. From 2015 to 2017, the Seattle Department of Transportation experimented with street closures to create a more walkable, less car-clogged Pike/Pine before finally shutting down the “People Streets” experiment for good.

Gay Gilmore of Capitol Hill’s Optimism Brewing has been an advocate for the program. “We can favor people and businesses that employ them and nourish them over the cars that would normally live in the street,” Gilmore said during a virtual press conference on the extension, the Seattle Met reports.

Councilmember Dan Strauss, chair of the council’s Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee, says he is working on creating a permanent program to allow venues to continue to swap adjacent street parking for seating space.

Plum

While the program has been hailed as a success by many in the business community, there are concerns about accessibility and making sure areas like sidewalks are clear for people of all abilities. With the extension announcement, officials reminded business owners to consider safe access in their new street cafe options.

“Café streets allow us to begin to dream of all the ways the public right of ways – our streets and sidewalks – can be used for so many other things than just car storage and moving people in cars,” said Anna Zivarts, Director of the Disability Mobility Initiative at Disability Rights Washington, in a statement on the extension. “Disabled people, especially those of us who can’t drive, love to see our local communities and our neighborhood businesses thriving, but we also want to emphasize how important it is to ensure our sidewalks remain accessible. I encourage all businesses utilizing the free sidewalk and curb space permits to make sure you’re familiar with and follow the guidelines to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can continue to get around and enjoy our city.”

You can learn more about the permits and guidelines at seattle.gov.

 

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Caphiller
Caphiller
4 months ago

Great news. I love the new outdoor seating. Hope it’s made permanent, and with that certainty, more restaurants feel comfortable investing in larger and better setups. More space for people, less space for cars!

Frank
Frank
4 months ago
Reply to  Caphiller

As long as they are not on the sidewalk, I’m happy. Ballard has done a good job and we should copy that.

d.c.
d.c.
4 months ago

Good, it’s something I’ve always wanted to have here. Got super jealous of practically every cafe in Europe. A handful of parking spots is a small price to pay!

The question of how to do it safely and smartly will be a matter of debate and experimentation but we can all get behind the idea. There’s also the matter of what these semi-permanent structures turn into come fall and winter, when they’ll be mostly empty. Let’s find out!

dave
dave
4 months ago

awesome!

andy
andy
4 months ago

patios are great but they really need to figure out the sidewalk situation. its so annoying to try walking down the block and having to pass through restaurants with oblivious servers and diners getting in the way.

Colin
Colin
4 months ago

I hope this sticks around the neighborhood forever! 10th between pike/pine and 11th between pike and union just feel so much more vibrant!

RipeAvocado
RipeAvocado
4 months ago

It seems this should be semi permanent and maybe expanded into parks too.

Or is my metaphor too obtuse?

RWK
RWK
4 months ago

I think that most of the street cafes are unattractive and cheap-looking. That said, I support them as a temporary measure until the pandemic is over, but I do not think they should become permanent.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
4 months ago
Reply to  RWK

I think that most of the street cafes are unattractive and cheap-looking.

All the better to develop the program further and keep the streets activated. The city can set minimum standards for the outdoor seating and work with restaurants to make sure their outdoor seating complies. I am all for this being permanent going forward.

The biggest question would be winter. This past winter the outdoor seating was well used, but that was due to there being no other options for dining. I can see there being some demand during the winter, but it remains to be seen if its enough to sustain the outdoor seating.

TAH
TAH
4 months ago
Reply to  RWK

I agree, some do not look great. But that’s because they were put together so quickly to save the business. If they’re allowed to stay, they will surely become higher-quality and better-looking because the businesses can afford to invest in them.

ballardite
ballardite
4 months ago

I’m ok with the extension because it will help small restaurants make back some of their lost income. But I don’t think these street dining tents should be permanent unless they are on streets that can be completely closed to cars. Main streets like Broadway will end up being to busy with traffic once business gets back to pre-pandemic levels.