Free sidewalk and curb space permits to help small businesses reopen in Phase Two
information from the City of Seattle
Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, Councilmember Alex Pedersen, and Councilmember Dan Strauss today announced new efforts by the City of Seattle to support small businesses and ease reopening during Phase 2 of the Governor’s Safe Start plan. The Mayor will soon transmit legislation to make new, temporary Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) street use permits free, and Councilmember Strauss and Councilmember Pedersen will sponsor the legislation. SDOT will immediately begin accepting street use permit applications, which allow restaurants, retail stores, vending trucks and carts to operate in the sidewalk or curb space in front of their business. In addition, the City is launching a series of Phase 2 reopening toolkits to help small businesses authorized to reopen under the Governor’s guidance navigate public health requirements and financial considerations.
“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, which is why we’re making our sidewalk and street permits free, and expediting turnaround times so small businesses can serve customers sooner, rather than later.”
“Sidewalk cafes are an example of responsive government. This idea came straight from the small business community that they felt would aid in their recovery. Sidewalk cafes are a creative public health strategy, a necessary step to help our businesses survive the economic impacts of COVID-19, and an example of how we can better utilize our existing pedestrian spaces. Throughout the pandemic, my Council office has been providing extensive small businesses help, and I’m hopeful this will be another tool in our toolkit to ensure small businesses can successfully and safely reopen. I’m proud to work with the Mayor and SDOT to sponsor this legislation,” said Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6, Northwest Seattle).
“We know small businesses are the heartbeat of our neighborhoods, and our City government will continue to be a creative partner to find solutions so businesses can safely reopen their stores and restaurants to the public. I’m hopeful these inventive solutions – temporary outdoor permits and informative reopening toolkits – will help small businesses not only survive this pandemic but also build community during this isolating time,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle).
The free SDOT flexible temporary street use permit options are for sidewalk cafes, merchandise displays, and food and other vending. These temporary permits will be available for up to six months. The free permit options are as follows:
- Temporary Outdoor Café Permit: A business owner should request this permit if they are a restaurant owner who would like seating on the sidewalk or in the curb space parking. An additional permit from Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board will be required to serve alcohol.
- Temporary Merchandise Display Permit: A business owner should request this permit if they are a retail business owner who would like to expand operations outside into the sidewalk or in the curb space parking (note that this includes the point of sale).
- Temporary Vending Permits: A business owner should request this permit if they are a vendor who would like more flexibility on their vending location and duration. This includes street and sidewalk locations for food trucks and carts.
SDOT is expediting and prioritizing these types of permit applications by requiring public notice, rather than the standard two-week public comment period. However, additional review time may be necessary depending on the quality of the permit application, site complexity, and volume of requests. SDOT has been working to evaluate any street closures in addition to sidewalk café permits.
“The Seattle Restaurant Alliance applauds this important move by Mayor Durkan to listen to the challenges of our members, and respond with an option that allows restaurants to serve the public safely and assists with the long recovery process as restaurants adapt to the new dining environment. We also appreciate the involvement of councilmembers Strauss and Pedersen as restaurateurs work to return employees and serve customers,” said Linda Di Lello Morton, President of the Seattle Restaurant Alliance.
“Throughout the COVID crisis, we’ve worked to help Seattle’s small businesses stay in business. By making it easier for restaurants and merchants to use Seattle’s sidewalks and streets to increase their capacity while adhering to public health guidance, we are continuing to find new ways to assist our small business community in these challenging times,“ said Sam Zimbabwe, Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation. “Whether it’s with temporary permits, Stay Healthy Streets, or the priority retail and food pick up zones, we’re committed to being nimble in the use of public space in service to employers eager for partnership and support.”
In addition, the City of Seattle launched a series of Phase 2 reopening toolkits for small businesses currently authorized to open per the Governor’s Safe Start plan. The reopening toolkits are not intended to provide public health guidance, but are meant to distill information from the state and county and make reopening guidance more accessible. The toolkits provide critical information for small business owners, including a reopening checklist, resources to access Personal Protective Equipment and financial assistance, testing information, and rent and commercial lease assistance. The City has toolkits for the following industries:
- Restaurants and taverns
- Personal services
- Professional services
- In-store retail
- Fitness and training
- Domestic services
The toolkits are available on the City’s new reopening website, and are translated into Amharic, Chinese, Korean, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese. In addition, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections produced an occupancy calculator to help businesses determine how many staff and patrons they can have in their establishment to remain in compliance with Phase 2 reopening requirements.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the Puget Sound region, the City of Seattle has launched relief resources for vulnerable communities like including rent assistance, child care for essential workers, free testing sites, shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness, small business support, and grocery vouchers.
The City has a comprehensive resource page for residents and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.