New policy could mean more outdoor cafes in Seattle

Aug 17, 2011

If it's not raining, it's nice to sit outside, sipping a drink or tucking into a meal. Outdoor cafes are great for this and now it looks like more of them are coming our way.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board this week has adopted an interim policy allowing Seattle restaurants to establish sidewalk cafes in more locations.

Existing rules limit sidewalk cafe alcohol service to areas immediately adjacent to a building. In most cases, sidewalks in these area aren't wide enough to allow for both pedestrians and a cafe. The new rules give restaurants more flexibility, including an option for curbside sidewalk cafes.

Restaurants with a liquor license will be able to extend their food and alcohol service to the curb side of a sidewalk public right-of-way area if their request to the Liquor Control Board is approved and if they're given a permit from the City of Seattle.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says the rule change is a big win for local businesses and neighborhoods.

"Allowing more sidewalk cafes will help improve urban vitality and give restaurants and patrons more choices."

Liquor Control Board Chair Sharon Foster says the board supports Seattle's efforts to make outside dining more accessible and she says it's not just Seattle this rule change will impact.

"While the effort was shouldered by the City of Seattle, this interim policy will apply statewide."

The new policy supports Seattle's comprehensive Nightlife Initiative. In July, Mayor McGinn took the first step toward changing state policy to allow extended service hours for bars and restaurants.