On Monday, February 22, the Seattle City Council announced a new bill proposal that could drastically impact smaller food and beverage operations in Seattle. The new legislation aims to loosen certain restrictions on retail sales based out of homes, potentially opening up possibilities for more small kitchen bakeries, retail based out of garages, and other microbusinesses to pop up.
Home-based food and drink sales are already allowed in Seattle, but they must follow a strict set of criteria. Among the requirements: selling via appointments only, displaying clear evidence of the business from the outside through signage, limiting non-resident employees to no more than two people, and making sure that there isn’t a substantial increase in on-street parking congestion or traffic in the immediate vicinity. This new bill would eliminate all those conditions, and it will be considered in co-sponsor Dan Strauss’s City Council committee Wednesday, February 24, with a full vote expected March 15.
As the council described in Monday’s announcement, the impetus for the new proposal was the recent closure of Yonder Bar, a takeout-only cider spot based out of the Greenwood/Phinney Ridge area. After six months in business, Yonder was forced to close after a neighbor submitted multiple complaints to the city. It appeared that the complaints were related to zoning issues around alcohol sales in proximity to churches and schools (or at least that may have been what was initially argued), but the city since clarified that the specific violations were more granular than that: unlawful sign placement and off-street parking issues. Facing hefty fines due to the rules surrounding home-based retail, the persistence of the complaints left the cider house with few options.
Yonder founder and president Caitlin Braam says the business has continued delivery through its Wenatchee-based distributor, but the lack of direct-to-consumer sales hurt, and finding a new location would take time. Now, Braam is grateful that the council is looking to amend regulations, which means that the recent closure of the North Seattle garage may not be permanent.
“We closed Yonder Bar when we did because we would have started facing fines [from the Seattle Department of Constructions & Inspections] if we hadn’t,” she tells Eater Seattle. “But if this bill passes, I promise we’ll be here on the day it goes into effect to roll that garage door back open.”