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Sidewalk Cafés


  - Tables and Chairs Permits
- Sidewalk Café Permits

Sidewalk Café Application Process

Proof of Insurance
Permit Revocation / Expiration
Frequently Asked Questions
Sidewalk Café Standards
Required Clear Path of Travel
Street Use General and Annual Permit Application: Sidewalk Café
SDOT Director's Rule 4-2011

CAM 2503

Updated August 30, 2011


Example of an attractive sidewalk cafe with required pedestrian clearances

Do you want to expand your restaurant or café to include open-air seating on the sidewalk? Consider applying for a street use permit. The City of Seattle encourages sidewalk cafes to increase public use, enjoyment and safety. With proper design and management, sidewalk cafes can be a great way to encourage walking, add vitality to the street, and promote local economic development.

Sidewalk seating associated with an adjacent business requires a Street Use Permit from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). There are two types of permits – a “Tables and Chairs” permit and a “Sidewalk Café” permit. Read the following summary and decide which is right for your business.

Tables and Chairs Permits

A Tables and Chairs Permit allows the adjacent business to set out tables and chairs on the sidewalk immediately adjacent to the business. While available to their patrons, these tables and chairs are open for use by the general public, table service may not be provided, and alcohol cannot be consumed. Tables and chairs must be removed daily and no fixed improvements (i.e. a railing or other obstruction) may be installed.

The Table and Chair permit fee is $146.00 for the first year and renews annually at $140.00. The permit allows for a maximum of four tables with two chairs each, depending on site characteristics. Freestanding umbrellas are not included in this permit.

A Tables and Chairs Permit can be applied for at the Street Use Permit Counter on the 23rd floor of Seattle Municipal Tower at 700 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, WA. The following information is required for SDOT to issue a Tables and Chairs Permit:

  1. Street Use General Application and Annual Permit Application
  2. $172.00 field review fee
  3. Site plan showing dimensions of encroachment and available pedestrian clearance. See Section VI. B. Sidewalk Cafe Standards
  4. Insurance documentation. See Client Assistance Memo (CAM) 2102

Sidewalk Café Permits

A Sidewalk Café Permit is required where table service will be provided and alcohol may be served. Once established, sidewalk cafes are for the exclusive use of the adjacent business, and a railing is required.

Applications for a Street Use Permit for a sidewalk cafe may be submitted either by the property owner or the operator of a food service establishment as defined by the Seattle Municipal Code 10.10.004 (O).

SDOT charges a one-time fee of $516.00 to review a sidewalk café application, and collects an annual permit fee of $146.00 plus $1.56 per square foot of sidewalk area used by the sidewalk café on public property. If approved, your permit will include terms and conditions that must be met as part of the regular operation of the sidewalk café. If permit conditions are maintained and the business has not changed ownership, SDOT will renew the permit annually by invoice. All Street Use permits are wholly of a temporary nature and can be revoked by SDOT, per SMC 15.04.070.

The green box at the top of this page provides you with links to everything you need to apply - a step-by-step description of the process, relevant standards and requirements, and application materials.

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