Café Street program extended for another year

The pilot program that allowed Seattle business owners to utilize streets outside of their businesses has just been extended another full year while permanent guidelines are finalized.

Seattle District Councilmember Dan Strauss, Chair of the City’s Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee, yesterday announced the official extension of the city’s Café Streets program through May 31, 2022. Café Streets allows restaurants and retailers to expand onto streets for outdoor dining or displays.

Strauss celebrated the extension of the successful pilot program while in Ballard on Monday, saying that the extension will give the city time to determine what a permanent cafe street program should and could look like after the pilot expires.

“The legislation extends the free café, display, and vending permits, which business owners have told me saved their businesses,” Strauss said. “By giving them the flexibility to use their entrepreneurial drive to stay open during changing public health regulations, businesses who pivoted their model to using these permits aren’t as impacted by changing public health guidelines.”

Strauss explained that in the interim, the Seattle Department of Transportation will put together an outreach proposal to present to the Seattle City Council this December. “[SDOT] could have spent this past year doing this outreach necessary to create a permanent proposal, however, they spent their time issuing permits. I applaud this effort because that means more businesses throughout Seattle have these sidewalk cafe permits than if SDOT had been doing outreach instead,” Strauss said.

“The Café Streets program has been a lifeline for many businesses and this extension means more of our small businesses will now have the opportunity to expand their service outdoors to serve their customers and contribute to our City’s recovery,” Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez said. “Café Streets have transformed blocks all across Seattle and helped activate our public spaces to become more welcoming and inclusive. Let’s make this pandemic practice permanent and bolster vibrancy for our neighborhood businesses and downtown.

Executive Director of the Ballard Alliance Mike Stewart said the extension of the Café Streets program gives Ballard businesses the “agility needed to remain open during changing public health guidelines and continue working toward economic recovery.”

Hattie’s Hat owner Max Genereaux said the program helped keep his business open last year, “but we still have a long way to go to recover from the financial impacts resulting from the pandemic.” He says the community’s response has been so far very positive, and expects the demand for outdoor dining will continue to increase.

Along with the extension of the Café Streets program, the City Council has made other efforts to bolster the local business community including the Bringing Business Home ordinance, which allows microbusinesses to operate in their homes; grants for small businesses through the Small Business Stabilization Fund; and direct financial support for workers in the restaurant, bar and hospitality industries. 

Photo: Seattle City Council