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Pike Place Market Expands Its Outdoor Seating Options This Summer

There are around 19 new picnic tables on Pike Street, Pike Place, and the MarketFront deck, continuing a popular program that began last summer

Red umbrellas cover picnic tables on the streets outside Pike Place Market, with the Market’s famed clock and sign in the background.
Pike Place Market created outdoor seating in the summer 2020 and expanded it this July.
Courtesy of Pike Place Market

Outdoor dining is prevalent once again at one of Seattle’s most iconic landmarks. Expanding upon an effort that began last summer, Pike Place Market has added more seats on the cobblestone streets around the famed clock and other areas. In total, there are around 19 new picnic tables on Pike Street, Pike Place, and the MarketFront deck that officially opened July 14, while the other public seating spots reopened on July 1. These areas will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily until September 7, and the street-side patios service restaurants such as the Crumpet Shop, Market Grill, and El Borracho.

Pike Place’s plaza is among the prominent applications to Seattle’s outdoor cafe street initiative, which launched in July 2020 as a way to aid restaurants that were closed for indoor dining or had restricted capacity. As part of the plan, the city offered expedited and free permits for restaurants (and other retail businesses) to close down one or more blocks outside for service. Many businesses in various neighborhoods coordinated efforts with local organizations to create more robust seating areas on surrounding streets— in addition to Pike Place, there are plazas in Columbia City and, more recently, on the Ave in the U District that support nearby restaurants.

Even though the whole state has allowed full capacity for indoor dining, outdoor seating remains popular (a recent Eater Seattle survey showed the majority of correspondents prefer sitting outside, at least in the warmer months). Given the demand, the Seattle city council voted unanimously in May to extend its popular outdoor cafe program for another seven months beyond the expected expiration date this fall, and it was quickly signed into law.

With that bill, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops can apply and retain free outdoor seating permits until May 31, 2022. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) plans to use the interim period to see if there’s a way to put longer term regulations for outdoor plazas and sidewalk seating in place so that lawmakers can explore a “pathway to permanency.” In fact, SDOT recently released a survey to the public on how the permitting program might be improved for the future.