AG 1085: Sidewalk Tables and Chairs

Overview  

A Tables and Chairs Permit allows a permit holder to set out tables and chairs adjacent to their business or building. The tables and chairs may be used by the business or organization’s patrons as well as the public. This permit does not allow table service and patrons cannot consume alcohol while using the furniture. With proper management, tables and chairs can add vitality to the street, provide a place for people to sit, rest, and gather, and promote local economic development. 

Do you want to offer table service, including alcohol service? Check out our sidewalk café permits, including fence-free, frontage zone, and curb space café options! If you want to place tables and chairs in the curb space, check out our parklet permit

Ready to apply? Follow the below steps! 

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Step 1: Review siting standards 

Step 2: Draw your site plan

Step 3: Apply online! 

Step 4: Application Review & Decision 

Step 5: Permit Issuance and Inspection 

Step 6: Permit Renewal & Maintenance 


Step 1: Review siting standards 

The Basics  
  • Tables and chairs must be open to the general public to use at all times. Signs saying tables and seating are for “customers only” are strictly prohibited. 
  • Tables and chairs are allowed within the frontage of the permittee’s business in the frontage zone (against the building, labeled “4” on below graphic) or the furniture zone (where trees and parking meters are located next to the curb space, labeled “2” on below graphic). Tables and chairs are not allowed in the curbspace (labeled “1” on below graphic).
  • In the furniture zone, tables and chairs are not allowed directly adjacent to bus zones and loading zones. 

Street Furniture Placement

Frontage Zone
Curbspace
Furniture Zone
Pedestrian Clear Zone (*The width of the pedestrian clear zone is based on street types (6'-8'), as established by the Right-of-Way Improvements Manual or successor rule.)
Pedesstrian Straight Path (* The pedestrian straight path cannot have sharp or jagged turns and should be a minimum of 3'.)
Bike Rack
Diverter

Overview of planned a tables and chairs set up, without diverters:

Overview of planned a tables and chairs set up, with diverters

Overview of planned a tables and chairs set up, with diverters

Overview of planned a tables and chairs set up, with diverters

Siting Details 
  1. Pedestrian Clear Zone & Straight Path 

The pedestrian clear zone is the area of the sidewalk corridor that is needed for people using the sidewalk. Tables and chairs are not allowed to protrude into the pedestrian clear zone. The pedestrian path shall be generally straight with no sharp turns that impair pedestrian mobility.  

We require an 8-foot pedestrian clear zone on Downtown Street sidewalks (as defined by Streets Illustrated) and a 6-foot pedestrian clear zone on all other sidewalks. You can find your street type by using the Streets Illustrated Street Type map! You need to consider the footprint of the tables and chairs “in operation” or in other words with people sitting on them when determining your pedestrian clear zone. 

There should be a 3-foot-wide pedestrian straight path that runs the length of the tables and chairs and for 25 feet past the boundaries along each block face where the tables and chairs are placed. 
Here’s a figure to help visualize pedestrian clear zone and straight path requirements:

Overview of planned a tables and chairs set up, without diverters:

Overview of planned a tables and chairs set up, without diverters

Overview of planned a tables and chairs set up, with diverters:

Overview of planned a tables and chairs set up, with diverters

B. Setbacks 

Setbacks are required from the following elements and must be clearly identified on the permit application’s site plan: 

  1. Five (5) feet from alleys, driveways, and curb ramps 
  2. Shall not be sited in a tree pit 
  3. Shall not be sited in a way that inhibits the operation, maintenance, visibility, or functionality of any utilities or street fixtures.
  4. For furniture zone locations:  
    • 10 feet from corner clearance zone (see Figure LM in Streets Illustrated), 
    • Not adjacent to bus zones, transit zones, commercial vehicle loading zones, and designated food-vehicle zones (for furniture zone locations), 
    • 3 feet from the back of the curb (for furniture zone locations) 

C. Setting it Up - Furniture  

This permit only allows placement of tables and chairs and diverters, and no fixed features are allowed. Here are some basic details to help set you up for success: 

  • Freestanding umbrellas are not allowed. Umbrellas that are integrated into a table are allowed, but must have an 8’ vertical clearance if they overhang the pedestrian zone on the sidewalk. 
  • Outdoor storage or other uses are not allowed. 
  • No advertising, logos, or promotional material is allowed, except for small on-premise business signage if consistent with sign regulations (SMC Title 23) and approved by us. 
  • Diverters shall be placed at either end of the tables and chairs footprint, unless otherwise approved by us. Diverters must be:
    • Between 30-42” tall 
    • Extend the entire width of the tables and chairs footprint as either a single cane-detectible element or multiple cane-detectable elements
    • If in the frontage zone, abut the adjacent building and extend at a 90-degree angle from the building face. If in the furniture zone, sited perpendicular to the path of travel
    • Be able to withstand wind, adverse weather conditions, and incidental contact
    • Not be bolted to the sidewalk
    • Be constructed of materials that contrast the sidewalk surface color and building to increase visibility for the visually impaired 
  • The tables and chairs area must be accessible and detectable per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is the permit holder’s responsibility to comply with all regulations of Title III of the ADA. 
  • Tables and chairs shall be placed in alignment with the sidewalk or the building to limit the amount of spillover into the pedestrian clear zone. Seating shall not be placed to have a movable chair with a back to the pedestrian clear zone (see figure below).
  • All furniture must be easy movable by staff and removed from the right-of-way daily and stored on private property when the business is closed.

Tables and Chairs Setup, without diverters:

Two sets of tables and chairs set up, one correctly, the other incorrectly

Tables and Chairs Setup, with diverters:

Two sets of tables and chairs set up with diverters, one correctly, the other incorrectly

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Step 2: Draw your site plan 

Based on the requirements in Step 1, prepare a site plan (see CAM 2116 for details on site plan requirements). Your site plan needs to include the dimensions of your proposed table and chairs as well as right-of-way features with dimensions.  

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Step 3: Apply online! 

When you are ready to apply, head to the Seattle Services Portal . Note: if you've never used the Portal before, you'll need to register and set up an account first. See this helpful article or video on how to do this. 

Once you are logged in, follow the steps below:

  • Under "Create New" select "Permits-Street Use
  • Navigate to and select the "Long Term Use" and "Private Structures" record type.  
  • When prompted to input “Use Code Description,” choose “Public Amenity.” 
Required Documents 

At submittal:

Prior to permit approval:

  • Historic/Landmark District Certificate of Approval (if in an historic district

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Step 4: Application Review & Decision 

You can check the status of your permit online through the Seattle Service Portal. We will review the application and may contact you either to request additional information or to request corrections. After our staff review is complete, we will either approve, approve with modifications, or (in rare cases) deny the application. 

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Step 5: Permit Issuance and Inspection 

Once your permit is issued, it will be uploaded to the Seattle Services Portal. You should review the permit and approved documents. Then you are ready to set up your tables and chairs!  

Make sure you place furniture according to your approved site plan and let us know if you have any questions by emailing us at publicspace@seattle.gov. An inspector will go out and confirm the table and chairs placement conforms to the approved permit and plan.   

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Step 6: Permit Renewal & Maintenance 

Make sure to take everything inside when your business is not operating and keep an eye out during the day that patrons don’t move tables or chairs in a way that blocks the clear pedestrian path. 

Tables and chairs are a free, long-term, annually renewable permit. You are expected to maintain the tables and chairs in good condition and ensure daily operations are compliant with your permit approval. If there are any changes you want to make, you can request changes through the Seattle Service Portal. All permitted uses in public space may be subject to inspection.  

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