'It saved us:' Street cafes could become permanent fixtures for Seattle restaurants

Even though Washington state is on track to fully reopen by June 30, a feature born out of the pandemic could become a permanent fixture in Seattle and beyond.

The Seattle City Council on Monday is expected to pass a bill making it easier for restaurants and merchants to keep their outdoor spaces.

There have been nearly 120 years of drinking and eating at the bar inside Hattie’s Hat in Ballard

"This here and all of this, has been in this room since 1904," said owner Max Genereaux.

That kind of history comes with a lot of responsibility.

"All my merchants here we are all just trying to make it," Genereaux said.

He said a 12-foot wooden pergola right outside his restaurant has become more than a lifeline as sales from the dining outside are helping him keep everything inside open.

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

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

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

City leaders say they are into the new vibe too so come Monday they want to extend free permits well into 2022 to keep the outdoor lifestyle going.

"This bill is the pathway to permanency, so at first, we had this pilot program we’ve seen in place last year, we want to get to permanent regulation so street cafes will be a permanent fixture in our city," Seattle City Councilmember Dan Straus said.

SDOT says right now around 200 sidewalks, curbside, and street cafes are dotted across Seattle.

RELATED: Inslee: All counties will be in Phase 3 on Tuesday, state on-track for full re-opening by June 30

The department says the approval of the measure would automatically renew sidewalk and curbside outdoor spaces. Street cafes will be analyzed case by case. 

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

"We love it, it’s great," Seattle resident Shawn McClure said.

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

"I think everyone is going they should have done this years ago," McClure said.

The outdoor structure at Hattie’s Hat already looks permanent, with built-in seats and gas heaters connected to the tables for colder weather. Street cafes could possibly become fixtures in other cities like Tacoma and Edmonds. 

The City of Tacoma told Q13 News Friday they are evaluating a similar pilot program and now drafting a plan to make it permanent. Meanwhile, the City of Edmonds said they will be evaluating their street cafes at the end of this year. 

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