AG 1089C: Vending on a Public Sidewalk or Plaza

A Street Use permit for sidewalk & plaza vending is currently limited to vending food, non-alcoholic beverages, or flowers from a vending vehicle on a public plaza or from a vending cart on either a sidewalk or public plaza. There are a number of sidewalk and plaza vendors already permitted in Seattle business districts, but applicants are encouraged to identify new sites they think may be successful. This applicant guide will walk you through the steps needed to apply for, obtain, renew, and close your permit.

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Step 1: Determine how often and how long you wish to vend

Step 2: Identify the site you want to apply for

Step 3: Prepare information and documents needed for your application

Step 4: Apply on the Seattle Services Portal

Step 5: Understand the application review & decision process

Step 6: Pay for, obtain, print, and store your permit

Step 7: Maintain your site priority: permit renewal process

Step 8: Adhere to permit conditions

Step 9: Changing or closing your permit


Step 1: Determine how often and how long you wish to vend

  • One-year sidewalk and plaza vending permit 

Most of our vendors wish to obtain a one-year permit. This is particularly true for areas or sites that have already proven successful. Current vendors have priority to keep their permitted days of the week and times of day at their sites for as long as they meet the annual renewal requirements.  

  • 4-month trial site sidewalk and plaza vending permit 

For new vendors or for vendors wishing to try a new site that they identify, we plan to offer a 4-month trial site permit beginning in 2023. If you’re unsure whether a site will be successful, this will be a good option to try. The fees will be lower than a one-year permit and, if you like the site and later apply and are approved to extend the permit to a full year permit, you will be granted site priority for future renewals that adhere to our priority guidelines. 

  • 1-4 Days temporary event vending permit (New to Cart Vendors in 2023!)

Temporary event vending permits are now available to cart vendors! This will allow carts to set up and vend for a neighborhood event or small private party. Up to 4 days (consecutive or separate) can be included on a single temporary event vending permit. 

Whatever permit option you choose, you will need to identify the days of the week and times of day that you wish to vend. This information will be required on the permit application.

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Step 2: Identify your preferred site or sites

By the end of the 2022 year, we plan to reintroduce an updated Vendor Bulletin – a list which shows all currently permitted one-year vending sites. This will include the vendor business name, the site location, and the days of the week and times of day that each permit covers. Vendors can use the bulletin to identify approved sites that are available for accepting new applications. Once the Vendor Bulletin is posted on our website, it will be very important that you check the Bulletin before submitting an application. If you have trouble accessing or understanding the Vendor Bulletin, please contact us for assistance at publicspace@seattle.gov.  If you would like to try a new site, then you can start by finding a spot that you think will support a customer base and that meets our siting criteria.

When you apply for a new site, you will provide us with the adjacent street address and a site plan as described in Step 3.

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Step 3: Prepare information and documents needed for your application

In addition to telling us where, when, and how long you’d like to vend, you’ll need to provide specific information and documents as part of your application. Based on your business type, you should gather appropriate documents and information included below. You’ll be asked to upload PDF or JPEG copies of all required documents during the application or review process.

All sidewalk and plaza vending applicants must submit a site plan or equivalent. The plan must show required measurements, clearances, setbacks, street names, and a north arrow.

  • The plan should be an aerial view showing the entire footprint of your operation (your vending cart or vehicle plus operational space for the vendor or condiment tables, etc.). It must also show exactly where on the sidewalk or plaza the vending unit will be placed, with distances indicated from the curb, any utilities or street fixtures, etc.
  • You can read about the specific siting standards in the draft SDOT Director’s Rule: Vending in the Public Place, which you’ll find linked in the documents section of this webpage. We expect this Rule to be approved and published before the 2023 vending year begins. Please see these sections of the draft Director’s Rule for siting standards relevant to sidewalk and plaza vending: 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, and 6.5. We encourage you to read the entire Director’s Rule, but these sections will help you with your site plan. 
  • Below is an example of a simple site plan. A drawing by hand or a marked-up photograph may be sufficient, but all required measurements must be included. Your site plan must include the following information (match numbers below to numbers in graphic):
  1. Location of existing street fixtures (e.g. utility poles and vaults, parking pay stations, bus shelters, sign posts, tree pits) and their distance from the nearest edge of the proposed vending footprint
  2. Width of the adjacent sidewalk
  3. Distance from the proposed vending footprint to the nearest crosswalk or intersection
  4. Name and location of adjoining streets or alleys
  5. North arrow
  6. Vending footprint dimensions

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Step 4: Apply on the Seattle Services Portal

All Street Use vending applications must now be submitted via the Seattle Services Portal.  If you’ve never used the Portal before, you must start by registering. Here is a help article on How to Create a New Account, an article on How to Activate Your Account, and a help video on the process as well.  

TIP! Before and during your completion of a vending application, we strongly recommend that you open and closely follow our step-by-step, detailed help article called How Do I Apply for a Street Use Vending Permit.  

Here are some specific tips for applying for a sidewalk & plaza vending permit:

  • On the home page of the Portal under Create New, choose “Permits – Street Use,” then log in
  • Under Select a Record Type click on Short Term Use, then check the circle next to Vending before you click on the Continue Application button.

If you get stuck during the application process, please contact SDOTPermits@seattle.gov or 206-684-5253. If you need language assistance, please call our Customer Care Center at 206-684-7623.

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Step 5: Understand the application review & decision process

Once you submit your application via the Portal, it will be screened to make sure all required information and documents were included. If more information is needed, you’ll receive an email with instructions.

TIP! Most emails during the permit review are sent from a Do Not Reply address, so they may go into your spam folder.  Please check your spam folder occasionally after applying to make sure you aren’t missing emails related to your application.  

Once you have completed your application correctly and all documents are uploaded, your application will be assigned for review! 

If you apply for an existing site that is marked as available on the Vendor Bulletin, you may have competition. When this happens, we wait until the end of the application period to hold a lottery to determine who gets the site, then immediately thereafter we notify the lottery winner.

If you apply for one-year permit for a new site, a two-week public notice/comment period will be required before a permit can be issued. We will provide you with instructions for posting the notice at that time.

You can check the status of your application on the Seattle Services Portal at any time. When our application review is complete, we will either approve, approve with modifications, or deny your application. If we require modification or deny your permit, we will provide reasons for the decision.

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Step 6: Pay for, obtain, print, and store your permit

  • Permit fees

Permit fees are posted directly to your Portal record after your application is approved.ermit issuance and occupation fees are due prior to the issuance of the permit.  

  • Payment deadlines (Important New Change)

 Beginning with applications submitted for 2023 vending permits, you must pay your fees within 30 days of notification that your application has been approved or SDOT may close your application and open the spot to other vendors. If this is a renewal application, you will lose your site priority. Notification comes through a Do Not Reply email, so make sure you check your spam folder!  

  • Permit document

Once your application is approved and your fees are paid, your permit will be issued and you will receive notification via email. At that time, you should review, download, and print the permit document and approved site plan. You must carry a copy of your permit and approved site plan on your vending unit whenever you vend in public right-of-way.

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Step 7: Maintain your site priority: permit renewal process

Effective October 15, 2022, our one-year vending permits will all expire on the same January 31st date each year. Vendors with one-year permits will be able to submit a renewal application on a predictable posted schedule each year if they wish to maintain their priority for a site. If a permitted vendor submits their renewal application by the application deadline, they are highly likely to maintain their priority. However, sometimes conflicts from non-vending applicants, land use development, or projects arise that may lead to a vendor’s temporary or long-term loss of a site, and sometimes vendors are not granted continuing site priority based on prior failure to adhere to their permit conditions. For specific details related to site priority, lottery, and permit renewal, see Sections 9.2-9.4 of the draft vending Director’s Rule in the documents section on this webpage.

To ensure you do not miss the deadline for the annual renewal application period, make sure to read your emails from us and check our Vending Webpage for updates every fall.

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Step 8: Adhere to permit conditions

As a permitted vendor, you are required to adhere to all permit conditions. These are listed on the permit document itself, with additional detail contained in the SDOT Director’s Rule: Vending in the Public Place, which is currently in draft format and open for review on this website.

You are expected to vend during your permitted days and times throughout the year. We may perform occasional inspections and will be responding to complaints and inquiries from the public that are related to vending in public right of way.

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Step 9: Changing or closing your permit

If you wish to make a change to your current permit, you can request a permit revision through our Seattle Services Portal.

If you no longer wish to vend at your permitted site, or if you are closing or selling your business, you must notify us by either submitting a withdrawal request via the Portal or by contacting us at publicspace@seattle.gov so we can close your permit and open the site to other vendors. 

If you sell your business, your permit cannot be transferred to a new owner. The new owner must instead apply for a new permit in their name. The new owner will not be granted site priority.

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