Temporary Outdoor Cafe, Merchandise Display, and Vending Permits

Overview

We are now offering streamlined, free temporary permits for outdoor cafes, retail merchandise displays, food trucks and vending carts that are valid for up to 6 months:

  • A temporary outdoor café permit allows restaurant service and outdoor seating on the sidewalk or in curb space parking areas. The appropriate license from Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board is required to serve alcohol.
  • A temporary merchandise display permit allows a retail business to expand their operations outside into the sidewalk or in curb space parking areas (note: this permit allows sales to occur outside).
  • A temporary vending permit allows vending of food flowers, or publications on the sidewalk or in curb space parking areas from a truck or cart.

Temporary Outdoor Café Permit

This permit allows restaurant service and outdoor seating on the sidewalk or in curb space parking for up to 6 months. Alcohol service may be allowed through an “Extending Outside Liquor Service” permit through Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB). Download the Alteration Request Form to begin the process. Please contact the WSLCB with any questions about alcohol service.

Who can apply?

What you should know:

  • Outdoor dining must be located on the sidewalk or curb space parking adjacent to the restaurant
  • Restaurants will need to provide their own fencing and/or diverters to meet the temporary fencing requirements
  • Outdoor cafes must be taken down and stored on private property when the restaurant is closed
  • Temporary outdoor cafes may not be located in existing loading zones (for curb space locations)
  • If your restaurant is located in a designated historic district, you must receive approval from the historic district before the permit can be issued
  • If you already have an existing sidewalk café permit from us and you want to expand, you will need to submit a new temporary use application

Temporary Merchandise Display Permit

With this permit, retail businesses can temporarily expand their operations outside into the sidewalk or in a parking curb space for up to 6 months.

Who can apply?

  • Retail businesses

What you should know:

  • Merchandise display must be located on the sidewalk or curb space parking adjacent to the business
  • Retail business will need to provide their own fencing to meet the temporary fencing requirements (for curb space locations)
  • Temporary merchandise display must be taken down and stored on private property when the business is closed
  • Temporary merchandise display may not be located in existing loading zones (for curb space locations)
  • This permit will allow the sales to occur outside

Temporary Vending Permits

To provide vendors greater flexibility to try out new sites, we are offering a temporary vending permit for up to 6 months. This option is available for vending food, flowers, or publications from either a vending truck or cart in the curb space, sidewalk, or plaza areas.

Who can apply?

  • Any eligible food, flower, or publication vendor

What you should know:

  • Permits will allow up to a 4-hour block of time daily (such as between 10 am – 2 pm for the lunch hour)
  • Depending on what you are vending, it cannot be located within 50 feet of a food- or flower-service business (unless there is support from adjacent food or flower businesses)
  • Not located where an adjacent business is proposing to use the curb space (for curb space locations)
  • Not located in existing loading zone (for curb space locations)
  • We will allow more than two vendors per block with this permit type
  • The license plate number of your truck.
  • your King County Department of Public Health Mobile Food Unit permit or state if exempt (permits expired since the start of 2020 are acceptable)
  • your Seattle Fire Marshal permit, if using an open-flame or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or receipt of pending permit
  • your Seattle Business License

How to Apply

You can apply for these permits online through the Seattle Services Portal! Use the button on the right to get started. After creating a new account or logging into your existing account, you will need to do the following:

  • Under Create New select "Permits-Street Use"
  • Navigate to and select the "Short Term Use" and "Temporary Activation" record type.

Important: In "Project Name" field, put: "Safe Starts Temporary Permit". This will help us expedite your application. In the "Project and Location Description" please provide a detailed description of your planned use, including business hours and if you plan to serve alcohol (if you are proposing a café).

When you submit your application, you will need to submit only one (1) of the following:

  • a site plan (template available here) for your proposed temporary café, display, or vending site; or
  • 3 photos illustrating the location of your proposed temporary café, display, or vending site.

Updated Public Notification Requirements

To issue our permits faster, we’re not requiring the normal two-week public comment period for new temporary outdoor cafes and vendors. Instead, applicants for these permits are required to notify nearby residents and businesses of the proposed temporary café, merchandise display, or vending location at least 2 days before beginning operations. You can find more guidance on public notification in CAM 2117

Download a public notification flyer that you can complete, print out, and distribute!

Tips for Completing the Application 
In the Use Details section of the application, you'll need to create one row for each day of the week you wish to operate in the right-of-way (for example, if you wish to operate just on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you'll have 3 rows; if every day of the week, you'll have 7 rows).

For each row, follow these instructions in this order for the Safe Start Temporary Permit:

  • Use Code Description: Select "Street/Sidewalk Activities"  
    • Vendors: Do NOT choose Temporary Curb Space Vending 
  • Use Code: This will automatically fill in with "3A" 
  • Side of Street: Choose side of street where you'll place your temporary activation 
  • Mobility Type: Choose based on your plan; this will likely be either Sidewalk or Parking Lane
  • Closure Type: Choose "Partially Closed and Accessible" 
  • Use Start Date: Choose the future first day you plan to open your temporary activation
  • Duration (Days): Fill in "182" (this is the number of days in a 6-month period) 
  • Day of the Week: You can only choose one day per Use Details row 
  • Start Time: What time of day will you begin setting up in the right-of-way 
  • End Time: What time of day will all permitted uses be removed from the right-of-way 
  • Planned Number of Attendees: Leave this blank 
  • Expired Date: This will automatically fill in

In the Upload Documents section, if you are submitting photographs instead of a formal site plan, you may be submitting one document with three photographs or 3 separate documents, both options are fine.  However, for any of these documents, please use the following: 

  • Document Type: Choose "Site Plan" (even if it's a photo instead) 
  • Description: Describe in a couple of words, for example "Photo from front" or "Photos from 3 angles" 

Need Help? Check out our Applicant Checklists!

To help applicants apply for our new temporary permits, we've created an applicant checklist for each permit type.