‘It saved us:’ Road cafes may grow to be everlasting fixtures for Seattle eating places

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Sidewalk cafes could become a staple in King County as the state reopens

As Washington reopens in the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle, Ballard, and neighboring King County restaurants are hoping to maintain their permanent outdoor facilities, structures that were once a lifeline for many local businesses.

Although Washington state is on track to fully reopen by June 30, a feature emerged from the pandemic could become a staple in Seattle and beyond.

Seattle city council is expected to pass a law on Monday making it easier for restaurants and vendors to keep their outdoor spaces.

The bar at Hattie’s Hut in Ballard has been drinking and eating at the bar for nearly 120 years.

“This and all has been in this room since 1904,” said owner Max Genereaux.

This kind of story comes with a lot of responsibility.

“All of my dealers here, we’re all trying to make it,” said Genereaux.

He said a 12-foot wooden pergola right outside his restaurant has become more than a lifeline as outdoor restaurant sales help him keep everything indoors open.

“I can’t say enough about how it saved us,” said Genereaux.

The restaurant owner loves it so much that he wants the sidewalk cafes on Ballard Avenue to be permanent for blocks.

CONNECTED: “It’s Time”: Washington Hospitality Association Urges Inslee to reopen the state by June 15

“It reminds you of Europe. I copied, someone else copied, and before you know it, we have this very similar looking structure,” said Genereaux.

City officials say they are also in love with the new vibe. Next Monday they want to extend the free permits well into 2022 in order to maintain the outdoor lifestyle.

“This bill is the road to permanence. First we had this pilot program that we saw last year. We want to achieve permanent regulation so that sidewalk cafes become an integral part of our city,” said Seattle City Council, Dan Straus said.

According to the SDOT, there are currently around 200 sidewalks, roadside cafes, and street cafes scattered around Seattle.

CONNECTED: Inslee: All districts will be in Phase 3 on Tuesday and will be on track until fully reopening by June 30th

The department says approving the measure would automatically renew the outdoor spaces on the sidewalk and roadside. Street cafes are analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

In Ballard’s case, Ballard Avenue had to go from a one-way street to a street to make room for all of the street cafes.

“We love it, it’s great,” said Shawn McClure of Seattle.

Even with less access to cars and parking, many Seattle residents say it’s worth it.

“I think everyone is going to go what they should have done years ago,” said McClure.

The outdoor structure at Hattie’s Hat already looks permanent, with built-in seats and gas heaters attached to the tables in colder weather. Sidewalk cafes could potentially become establishments in other cities like Tacoma and Edmonds.

The city of Tacoma told Q13 News Friday that they are evaluating a similar pilot program and are now working on a plan to make it permanent. In the meantime, the City of Edmonds announced that they will be evaluating their sidewalk cafes later this year.

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