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Seattle City Council Passes Bill That Loosens Restrictions for Home-Based Kitchens and Retail

The legislation should give places like Phinney Ridge cider house Yonder Bar more leeway to operate

The outside of Yonder Bar, with green trimming and the word “Yonder” in yellow lettering, along with a small counter at the retail window Courtesy of Yonder Cider

Microbusinesses in Seattle just got a significant boost from new legislation. On Monday, March 15, the City Council passed a land use bill — on an 8-1 vote — that loosens certain restrictions on sales based out of homes. It will now be a bit easier for food and beverage retail operations, such as Phinney Ridge’s garage cider stand Yonder Bar, to operate.

Previously, home-based businesses in Seattle had to follow a strict set of criteria: sales needed to be via appointment only, additional employees that lived outside the household were limited to one person, and owners were required to limit parking congestion and traffic in the vicinity. This new bill eliminates all those conditions, and also allows for more visible signage for businesses beyond a miniscule 64-square-inch restriction.

The initial motivation behind the new rule was to help save the aforementioned Yonder Bar, the Seattle-based retail arm of a Wenatchee cidery. After six months selling its wares out of a Phinney Ridge garage, Yonder had to close temporarily after a neighbor submitted multiple complaints to the city, which included violations around unlawful sign placement and off-street parking issues. Facing hefty fines, the persistence of the complaints left the cider house with few options, but the City Council bill has now revived its outlook. Yonder Bar is currently open again, and also looking at expanding to Ballard with a taproom in partnership with Bale Breaker brewing.

Beyond garage cider sales, though, loosening restrictions should have an impact on the food and beverage scene in general, particularly since the Washington state house recently approved a bill that would allow up to 100 permits for home cooks to sell food from their kitchens commercially. If passed by the senate (and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee), the pilot program would last a year, and possibly add 200 more permits each year after.

Seattle’s newly relaxed restrictions also would expire in 2022, unless the city decides to extend them. “I see this bill as a business incubator strategy and I do hope every business outgrows their garage and into a storefront,” says Council President Lorena González. “This makes our neighborhoods more vibrant.”

Adds Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who co-sponsored the Seattle bill, “When more residents have financial stability during this time, it acts as a stimulus for the entire local economy as more people with money in their pocket spend it at existing Seattle small businesses and the multiplier effect helps everyone.”