Temporary Outdoor Café, Merchandise Display, Vending, and Street Closure Permits

Get the scoop on all the permit options for outdoor spaces!

To help business owners identify opportunities to expand their operations safely, we've assembled a guide to relevant permit offerings!

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! We are also offering temporary street closures to support restaurants and retail operations. 

About Using the Curb Space

Businesses applying for a temporary curb space café or merchandise display will also need to apply for a Temporary No Parking Permit and rent or purchase a No Parking barricade (T-39 sign) from a barricade company. A printable No Park sign with dates will be made available to you once you apply for the Temporary No Parking Permit. Simply print it out and place it on your barricade. We recommend placing the No Parking barricades 72 hours before you plan to set up, but they must be up at least 24 hours ahead to be enforceable. It is the business’ responsibility to call a tow company if a car is parked in your No Park zone.

I'm interested in...

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) or travel lanes (including bike and bus lanes)
  • 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

How to apply

Need Help? Check out these guides!

To help applicants apply for our new temporary permits, we've created an applicant checklist for each permit type and made a guide for the different equipment you may need.

You can apply for this permit 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.

Site Plan Requirements

We will need a site plan when you apply. This shows the area that you want to use so we can review your application. You can submit either:

  • a drawing per CAM 2116, (template available here)
  • a photo edited on your computer or phone,
  • or even a picture taken on-site with the proposed footprint area clearly shown using chalk, colored tape, or some other markings.

However you create your site plan, it must include all the information listed below. Without this information, your application may take longer for us to review and approve. 

You'll need to get out your tape measure for this, and clearly indicate on your plan:

  1. Footprint Dimensions: Indicate the length and width of the proposed outdoor seating area. If you are proposing an area in the "furniture zone" of the sidewalk, you must show the measurement from the edge of the sidewalk (the curb) to the edge of the proposed footprint you will use. You need 4' between the curb and the start of your temporary outdoor seating area. 
  2. Pedestrian Clear Zone: Indicate the sidewalk width next to the outdoor seating area footprint to show how pedestrians will travel on the sidewalk. The minimum required pedestrian clear zone is 6 feet in most neighborhoods (an 8 foot minimum width is required on some areas downtown -see Streets Illustrated section 2.3.). NOTE: If there is not enough space for the minimum clear zone, then you may be ineligible for this permit. 
  3. Clearance from other fixed objects: measure the distance between any objects on the sidewalk to your proposed footprint. The sidewalk may include other objects such as light poles, trees, parking meters, hydrants, and bike racks. Please measure the distance from those objects to the edge of your footprint and include this dimension.  
  4. Fencing or Diverters: Include details about what the proposed fencing or diverters will look like, including dimensions (length x width x height). 

A photograph showing several cars parked along the curb with a purple box showing potential curb space use with dimensions for a cafe, another purple box on the sidewalk showing the footprint of a sidewalk cafe, and a blue box for the pedestrian clear zone.

In the "Upload Documents" section: If you are submitting photographs instead of a formal site plan, you may submit one document with three photographs or 3 separate documents; for any of these documents, however, please follow these steps:

  • 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" 

Historic District Requirements

If you are located in a Historic District, you will need to upload document(s) along with your site plan that show the color and finish for all furniture, delineators, planters, fencing, or other features that you plan to use. Photos, images from websites, or catalog cut sheets are acceptable so long as they are in color.

Except for the fencing and traffic control materials you will use to define the permitted area, more subdued colors are recommended, such as grey/dark green or similar for any furniture, fence, or posts.

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. Instead, applicants are required to notify nearby residents and businesses of the proposed temporary café 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!

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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) or travel lanes (including bike and bus lanes)
  • This permit will allow the sales to occur outside

How to apply

Need Help? Check out these guides!

To help applicants apply for our new temporary permits, we've created an applicant checklist for each permit type and made a guide for the different equipment you may need.

You can apply for this permit 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.

Site Plan Requirements

We will need a site plan when you apply. This shows the area that you want to use so we can review your application. You can submit either:

  • a drawing per CAM 2116, (template available here),
  • a photo edited on your computer or phone,
  • or even a picture taken on-site with the proposed footprint area clearly shown using chalk, colored tape, or some other markings.

However you create your site plan, it must include all the information listed below. Without this information, your application may take longer for us to review and approve. 

You'll need to get out your tape measure for this, and clearly indicate on your plan:

  1. Footprint Dimensions: Indicate the length and width of the proposed merchandise display area. If you are proposing an area in the "furniture zone" of the sidewalk, you must show the measurement from the edge of the sidewalk (the curb) to the edge of the proposed footprint you will use. You need 4' between the curb and the start of your temporary merchandise display area. 
  2. Pedestrian Clear Zone: Indicate the sidewalk width next to the merchandise display area footprint to show how pedestrians will travel on the sidewalk. The minimum required pedestrian clear zone is 6 feet in most neighborhoods (an 8 foot minimum width is required on some areas downtown -see Streets Illustrated section 2.3.). NOTE: If there is not enough space for the minimum clear zone, then you may be ineligible for this permit. 
  3. Clearance from other fixed objects: measure the distance between any objects on the sidewalk to your proposed footprint. The sidewalk may include other objects such as light poles, trees, parking meters, hydrants, and bike racks. Please measure the distance from those objects to the edge of your footprint and include this dimension.  

In the "Upload Documents" section: If you are submitting photographs instead of a formal site plan, you may submit one document with three photographs or 3 separate documents; for any of these documents, however, please follow these steps:

  • 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" 

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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

Need Help? Check out this guide!

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

You can apply for this permit 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.

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 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 vending sites. Instead, applicants are required to notify nearby residents and businesses of the proposed 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!

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Temporary Street Closures

Existing businesses or organizations can join together to apply for a temporary street closure permit to provide more space for business activity and pedestrian movement.

Before you get started...

We encourage you to schedule pre-application coaching before you apply. We can work with you to understand your proposal and determine if it is possible and, if necessary, offer alternatives. To get started, e-mail us at publicspace@seattle.gov

What you should know

  • Some streets will be easier and quicker for us to review and approve. Examples include:
    • Non-arterial streets
    • Streets without bus routes
    • Single block (no intersection closures)
  • Sidewalks must remain open for people to move through the block; only the street can be closed.
  • A 20-foot fire lane must be maintained at all times. This fire lane can have easily movable objects, but any large objects, like tents, that cannot be easily moved are not allowed.

Interested in closing your street for business operations?

  1. Coordinate with your neighbors and gather support
  2. Jointly determine what space you want to use in the public right-of-way and how you want to use it; you’ll need to describe this to us in your application
  3. Reach out to us for pre-application coaching: email publicspace@seattle.gov and provide your phone number
  4. Get an email or letter of support from the owner of any impacted driveway
  5. Notify all business owners and property owners/managers in the street closure area of the proposed application. We've created a public notice template to help you with this!
  6. Apply online!


How to apply

You can apply for this permit 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: "Recovery Street Closure Temporary Permit". This will help us expedite your application. In the "Project and Location Description" please provide a description of the street closure location (for example: 11th Ave from E Pike St to E Pine St) and the ways you want to use the space.

Please upload the following documents:

  • A list of all participating businesses and organizations
  • An email/letter of support from the neighbors as part of your application, including all owner(s) of impacted driveways
  • A site plan showing the proposed furniture, tents, and layout for the closure area

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