2020 hasn’t been kind to the restaurant world in Seattle and beyond, but one silver lining for them (and their customers) has been the substantial relaxation of rules on outdoor dining.
Restaurants can more easily apply for a temporary “outdoor cafe permit” — to help out businesses, red tape around the approval process has been cut back, and two-week public consultations for patios have been replaced by a more informal process where restaurateurs ask for approval from their neighbors.
Some restaurants and bars can go further than asking for a no-fee patio: The city has also started to grant street closure permits, allowing businesses to create European-style outdoor plazas that sprawl out into the street.
It’s not a perfect solution — the first street closure permit wasn’t issued until mid-August, relatively late in the summer (although smaller patios were approved much earlier). But by allowing restaurants to drastically increase their capacity while still following rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s a potential lifesaver for these businesses.
These plazas and patios should appeal to customers, too: in an Eater Seattle survey earlier this summer, a plurality of respondents indicated that they were not totally comfortable with the idea of visiting restaurants and bars at that point. An easy majority said they would feel most comfortable dining outside, and that the city should find a way to allow for more outdoor seating at restaurants and bars.
As more of these patios and plazas are approved, here’s a look at how a few notable restaurants and bars are expanding out into the streets.
This Capitol Hill brewery was the first to be granted one of the larger street permit closures, which allows it to spread out onto Broadway Court, a relatively quiet, non-arterial side street. This doubled Optimism’s overall capacity — all while allowing customers to remain suitably distanced from each other. Plus, it’s a coworking space by day.
Back in May, Mamnoon owner Wassef Haroun proposed a partial closure of Melrose Avenue, allowing the Middle Eastern restaurant and its neighbors to take over a portion of the street. That hasn’t been approved yet, but Mamnoon has still moved its warehouse vibe outdoors, with a patio crafted from industrial girders. Outside of Mamnoon’s opening hours, it’s also open to the public.
Dreamland Bar and Diner
Taking over the former space of Fremont beer bar Red Door is this brand new day-and-night spot doing both brunch and cocktails. Despite the unfortunate situation of signing a lease immediately before the pandemic hit, owner Paul Shanrock got lucky in one sense: the restaurant came with a sizable, tree-lined patio perched above N 34th Street.
Little Neon Taco
Chef Monica Dimas and her team at this First Hill venue may not have had the luxury of a closed street for their patio, but nonetheless converted the restaurant’s alleyway into a tucked-away oasis.
Matt’s in the Market/Radiator Whiskey
With the tourist and cruise crowds mostly absent, summer 2020 is a solid time to rediscover Pike Place Market — grab a cocktail and some seasonal seafood dishes, and pull up a seat right in front of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.