Capitol Hill brunch favorite Oddfellows Cafe and Bar will be the latest restaurant to close temporarily during the state’s current restrictions on indoor dining. But it’s not staying completely idle after service Sunday, December 6. Over the coming weeks, the restaurant is planning to construct what it’s calling a “permanent street patio” with a deck, roof, and heaters, and eyes a return in early 2021. There will also be a similar one built outside sibling restaurant King’s Hardware in Ballard.
This speaks to the changes that signal a longer lasting part of the dining landscape in 2021 and beyond. Outdoor street plazas began appearing across the city in late summer after the city loosened up permitting red tape and eliminated fees. Though the revised permitting process has been extended until October 2021, any effort to build durable patios may need a boost during the colder winter months. Oddfellows owner Linda Derschang told Eater Seattle that the makeshift tents she had been using at Oddfellows and King’s Hardware were not holding up in the weather, “and we haven’t even gotten into the heart of winter.”
Before the latest indoor dining ban was implemented, Derschang reached out to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office to inquire about how far outdoor dining could go. She thinks that the more complex, semi-permanent structures that New York City restaurants have built could work for Seattle. “It would be a game changer for many people, from business owners and their staff to the neighborhoods,” Derschang says. “Having so much outdoor activity really invigorates the streets.” Adjusting the “Safe Start” permits that already exist for more complexity isn’t too rigorous, though getting the go-ahead for even small details that require engineering approval can still take months.
Recently, Washington state issued some updated guidelines for outdoor dining. Most structures must have no more than two walls to allow proper ventilation. But smaller spaces — such as domes and pods — are allowed, if they follow proper COVID-19 sanitation guidance, are limited to one dining party at a time, keep any doors and windows open when diners are seated inside, and are aired out between uses. Derschang isn’t going the hermetically-sealed dome route, but will try to create space for outdoor seating that’s protected from the elements and a little more elegant than tents. She solicited some feedback on Instagram, using a patio example from NYC, and the consensus was that maximizing airflow would need to be a high priority of any design.
Derschang also isn’t the only one trying to think more longterm about patios. After getting by for a few weeks with temporary tents, Musang recently constructed a wood roof over its small outdoor seating area in Beacon Hill, while Surrell in Madison Valley may have one of the more thought-out patios in the city at the moment — it’s fully covered, with heaters for each table and canvas to help block the breeze, as well as landing tables where the wait staff drops off dishes and drinks for lower-contact service. Diners may expect such set-ups to be even more common going forward in Seattle, no matter how much rain the city gets.