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!

What's New

We’ve made some important updates that we’re excited to share!

  • We’ve recently announced that our temporary permits for curb space and sidewalks will be valid through October 31, 2021 (unless Seattle enters Phase 4 of the Governor’s Safe Start Stay Healthy Order before then). Please note that there may be construction or utility conflicts that result in a need to remove permitted uses for a short duration or long-term. We will attempt to provide notice 30 days in advance and coordinate to reduce impacts.
  • Additionally, we’ve modified our permit requirements to eliminate the expectation that permittees remove their outdoor cafes or temporary displays on the sidewalk or curb space outside of business hours. (If you were permitted in a load zone that is operational outside of your business hours or in a Farmers’ Market footprint, this does not apply – reach out to us if you are unsure!)
  • We’ve also published winter weather guidance that contains details on permissible shelters and furniture that may be used without additional SDOT review. Please be aware that the Seattle Fire Department, Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, and Seattle Department of Neighborhood Historic/Landmark approvals may still be required, and that those agencies may have additional rules that affect your proposal.
  • We're are currently updating our Applicant Checklists to reflect this new guidance. Where there is a disagreement between the checklist and this update, please follow this new guidance.

Overview

We are now offering streamlined, free temporary permits for outdoor cafes, retail merchandise displays, food trucks, and vending carts that are valid through October 31, 2021! We are also offering temporary street closures to support restaurants and retail operations. 

About Using the Curb Space

Businesses applying to use a curb space (whether paid or unpaid) 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 through October 31, 2021. 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
  • You are responsible for all equipment, including taking it down during storms or high winds that might pose a risk to the public
  • The City is not responsible for vandalism, theft, or misuse of equipment
  • Temporary outdoor cafes may not be located in existing loading zones (we may consider exceptions, so please apply if you are still interested!) 
  • Temporary outdoor cafes may not be located in 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, but we will send your materials to them directly so you don't need to apply separately
  • 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

To help applicants apply for our new temporary permits, we've created an applicant checklist for each permit type. Please read the checklist before you begin your application. The checklist details what is required as part of your application.  It contains information about café requirements, site plan guidance and example diagrams, and very helpful instructions for applying through the Seattle Services Portal. It will answer most of your questions and make your application process easier. Then, when you have your information gathered and documents ready, use the button on right to link to the Portal and begin your application!

Follow the links below to the applicant checklist for cafés and to a guide for outdoor equipment options you may find useful. 

Important: When you begin your application, you'll be asked for a Project Name and Project and Location Description. 

  • 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 measurements and exact location of the area that you want to use. We cannot review your application without a site plan; however, we do have different options for how this site plan may be created.  Please see the applicant checklist for details! 

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 through October 31, 2021.

Who can apply?

  • Retail businesses

What you should know:

  • Temporary merchandise displays must be located on the sidewalk or curb space parking area adjacent to the business 
  • Retail businesses will need to provide their own fencing to meet the temporary fencing requirements (for curb space locations
  • You are responsible for all equipment, including taking it down during storms or high winds that might pose a risk to the public
  • The City is not responsible for vandalism, theft, or misuse of equipment
  • Temporary merchandise displays may not be located in existing loading zones or other temporary activities such as curbside pickup (we may consider exceptions, so please apply if you are still interested!)
  • Temporary merchandise displays may not be located in travel lanes (including bike and bus lanes)
  • If your business is located in a designated historic district, you must receive approval from the historic district before the permit can be issued, but we will send your materials to them directly so you don't need to apply separately
  • This permit will allow the sales to occur outside

How to apply

To help applicants apply for our new temporary permits, we've created an applicant checklist for each permit type. Please read the checklist before you begin your application. The checklist details what is required as part of your application. It contains information about merchandise display requirements, site plan guidance and example diagrams, and very helpful instructions for applying through the Seattle Services Portal. It will answer most of your questions and make your application process easier. Then, when you have your information gathered and documents ready, use the button on right to link to the Portal and begin your application!

Follow the links below to the applicant checklist for merchandise display and to a guide for outdoor equipment options you may find useful.

Important: When you begin your application, you'll be asked for a Project Name and Project and Location Description.

  • In the "Project Name" field, put: "Safe Start Temporary Permit," followed by your business name. 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 measurements and exact location of the area that you want to use. We cannot review your application without a site plan; however, we do have different options for how this site plan may be created.  Please see the applicant checklist for details! 

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 Vending Permits

To provide vendors greater flexibility to try out new sites, we are offering a temporary vending permit through October 31, 2021. 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:

  • Temporary Vending Permits will allow up to a 4-hour block of time daily (such as between 10 am – 2 pm for the lunch hour)
  • Temporary food vending cannot be located within 50 feet of a food-service business and temporary flower vending cannot be located within 50 feet of a flower-service business (unless there is support from those businesses)
  • Temporary vending may not be located where an adjacent business is proposing to use the curb space (for curb space locations)
  • Temporary vending may not be located in existing loading zones (for curb space locations)
  • We will allow more than two vendors per block with this permit type

How to apply

To help applicants apply for our new temporary permits, we've created an applicant checklist for each permit type. Please thoroughly read the checklist before you begin your application. The checklist details what is required as part of your application. It contains information about vending requirements and site plan guidance, and very helpful instructions for applying through the Seattle Services Portal. It will answer most of your questions and make your application process easier. Then, when you have your information gathered and documents ready, use the button on right to link to the Portal and begin your application!

Follow the links below to the applicant checklist for vending.

  • Applicant Checklist - Temporary Vending
  • Important: When you begin your application, you’ll be asked for a Project Name and Project and Location Description.
  • In the “Project Name” field, put: "Safe Start Temporary Permit," followed by your business name. This will help us expedite your application.
  • In the "Project and Location Description" please provide a detailed description of your planned use, including vending hours.

Document requirements

The following documents are required as part of your application:

  • A site plan: This shows the measurements and exact location of the area that you want to use. We cannot review your application without a site plan; however, we do have different options for how this site plan may be created. Please see the applicant checklist for details!
  • Your Seattle Business License
  • The license plate number of your truck, if vending from a truck
  • Your King County Department of Public Health Mobile Food Unit permit or a statement if exempt (permits expired since the start of 2020 are acceptable), vending food.
  • Your Seattle Fire Marshal permit, if vending food and using an open-flame or liquid petroleum gas (LPG), or receipt of pending permit

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.
  • Street closures are intended for existing brick and mortar businesses and existing permitted vendors within the street closure area. Closures are meant to provide more space for people moving through the area and to add more business activity space. They are not intended to be an event or a public draw.  

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! The notice will alert your neighbors to contact you or SDOT with their feedback within 5 business days. We'll need evidence that most neighbors support your proposal, so this will help you obtain that. You can document neighbor support using this form
  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: "Safe Start 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), the days and duration you'd like to close the street, and the ways you want to use the space.

Please upload the following documents:

  • A list of all participating businesses and organizations
  • A summary of what you heard from your neighbors; you can use our form
  • An email/letter of support from the neighbors as part of your application, including all owner(s) of impacted driveways and the Business Improvement Association (BIA) if not the applicant)
  • A site plan showing the proposed furniture, tents, and layout for the closure area. Note: One way to prepare a site plan is to use online maps with aerial images. We have an online Traffic Control Base Map that may be useful for you to use to create a base map that you can draw over.

We have an example site plan to help identify some elements we'd like to see on your plan

  • In Historic Districts, please upload document(s) that show the color and finish of any fencing, furniture, planters, or other features proposed for the street closure area. 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. 

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