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Seattle Officially Extends Free Outdoor Dining Permits for Restaurants to May 2022

Plus, Washington bars can now offer vaccinated patrons free drinks, and details on Volunteer Park Cafe’s upcoming revival come into focus

Outdoor seating around Pike Place Market, with the market’s famed sign in the background and pink umbrellas displayed around tables filled with patrons
Pike Place Market businesses increased outdoor seating options last summer through expedited and free city permits.
Suzi Pratt

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Seattle Extends Free Outdoor Dining Permits for Restaurants to May 2022

On Monday, May 17, the Seattle city council voted unanimously to extend its popular outdoor cafe program for another seven months beyond the expected expiration date this fall, and mayor Jenny Durkan is expected to sign it into law. With this bill, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops can apply and retain free outdoor seating permits until May 31, 2022.

Outdoor and sidewalk dining areas have been a lifeline for many restaurants in the city since the program was implemented last summer, and the extension will allow lawmakers to explore a “pathway to permanency.” Councilmember Dan Strauss said that the Seattle Department of Transportation plans to use this interim period to see if there’s a way to put fixed regulations for outdoor plazas and sidewalk seating in place.

Most likely, any permanent solution would involve some fees for restaurants, although the eventual cost is unclear. For the time being, another year of more al fresco dining should help businesses get through continued COVID uncertainty. “For Hattie’s Hat, the ability to operate a street cafe helped us survive 2020,” said Max Genereaux, owner of the popular Ballard bar. “But we still have a long way to go to recover from the financial impacts resulting from the pandemic.”

Washington Bars Now Allowed to Offer Free Booze to Vaccinated Guests

Up until now, giving away free beer to those who got a COVID vaccine wasn’t allowed, per Washington law — the best breweries could do to incentivize people to get a shot was offer a steep discount. But the state’s Liquor & Cannabis Board recently tweaked its rules so that bars and restaurants can now offer complimentary drinks to those who show proof of their vaccination, with several complicated caveats. The amended regulations are effective only until June 30, and in their promotions, establishments can’t use the words “complimentary” or “free,” only that the business will purchase a drink on the customer’s behalf. Guests are also limited to just one drink, and they must show proof to the server that they have been vaccinated (with either their first or second shot) between May 15 and June 30.

Details of Volunteer Park Cafe’s Revival Come into Focus

In 2020, ownership of Capitol Hill favorite Volunteer Park Cafe switched hands to James DeSarno, a Seattle-based architect and co-owner of Yakima Valley winery Freehand Cellars. After closing in early November, DeSarno said the cafe would eventually reopen as a hybrid restaurant, market, and bottle shop — and more details are now coming into focus. Per Seattle Met, leading the charge on the food side are Crystal Chiu and Melissa Johnson, two bread and pastry experts who spent time in the Canlis kitchen (Chiu used to be the restaurant’s executive pastry chef). With an eye on reopening the cafe this spring, the duo plan to go to work soon on a menu featuring cookies, cakes, pies, breakfast sandwiches, soups, salads, and happy hour snacks.

Volunteer Park Cafe

1501 17th Avenue East, , WA 98112 (206) 328-3155 Visit Website