The outdoor seating program in Seattle restaurants might be staying after legislation introduced this week proposes to extend free permits until 2022.
Before the pandemic hit, dining outdoors in our city was rare. However, since July 2020, eating and enjoying a drink outside is the new normal in Pike Place and other gastronomical areas. Seattle created an outdoor seating program with free expedited permits, particularly after experts affirmed that these spaces carry a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Restaurants that took advantage of the opportunity acquired a free temporary license, where they could install tables and seating on curbsides, sidewalks and even closed-off blocks. In the past, they would have to pay fees to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), fees that are currently waived due to the health alert.
Last fall, the outdoor seating licenses were extended until October 2021, after it became clear that the pandemic would not fade as fast as it was originally thought. Luckily, city council members introduced new legislation this week, asking for the current program to allow more outdoor seatings to be approved and the existing ones to be maintained until May of next year. A full vote by the council with a decision is expected by May 17th.
This would help restaurants, bars and cafés to keep operating with safer seating options for customers while also letting them recover from financial strains and gradually recover jobs. In December of 2020, the Washington Hospitality Association reported that more than 2000 restaurants closed across the state due to COVID.
Featured image by Barbare Kachava from Unsplash.