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Sidewalk Cafés


  - Tables and Chairs Permits
- Sidewalk Café Permits
- Fence-Free Sidewalk Café Pilot Program

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 April, 2009


  1. Review the Sidewalk Cafe Standards. Layout a site plan for your proposed sidewalk cafe. The standards described in SDOT Director’s Rule 1-2009, described below, must be met in order for the application to be approved.
  1. Collect the required documentation. The following are required to apply for a sidewalk café permit: 
    • A certificate of liability insurance (see II below), and
    • If located in a Landmark District or Historic District, a certificate of approval from the appropriate Board or Commission subject to Title 25 of the Seattle Municipal Code. To determine if your business is located in one of these Districts, maps and contact information are available at: Historic Districts
  1. Visit SDOT. An informational pre-application visit to the SDOT Annual Permits Office is advised to review your layout and determine if sidewalk width, zoning, and existing obstructions will allow for a sidewalk café. The Annual Permits Office is located on the 23rd floor of Seattle Municipal Tower at 700 Fifth Avenue and can be reached by phone at (206) 684-5267 during normal business hours. We recommend calling ahead to schedule time with a permit specialist.
  1. Submit Complete Application. A complete sidewalk cafe application includes: Application, Letter of Authorization, site plan, fencing detail and installation method, insurance, $516.00 field review fee, and Certificate of Approval (if in Historic District).
    This information can be submitted in person to the Street Use Permit Counter on the 23rd floor of Seattle Municipal Tower at 700 Fifth Ave, or can be mailed to:

    SDOT, Attn: Annual Permit Office
    P.O. Box 34996
    Seattle, WA 98124-4996

  1. Post Notice at the proposed location. Once your complete application has been submitted, you must post the notice form provided by SDOT. Notice must be visible to passers-by at the business and remain up for the two week public comment period before you receive a decision from SDOT. The notice will also be published in DPD's Land Use Information Bulletin (LUIB), available online at: During the two-week notice period, any interested person may submit written comments on the project to SDOT Annual Permits, who will consider them in reviewing the application.
  1. Application Review and Site Visit. SDOT will review the application and may contact you to request more information or corrections. SDOT will visit the site to ensure the layout meets standards and verify that notice has been posted. SDOT may require the applicant to repair portions of the sidewalk if damage is present.
  1. Permit Decision.   After the public notice period and staff review are complete, SDOT will approve, approve with modifications, or deny the application. The SDOT decision is made after the two week public comment period has ended. When a decision is made, the applicant will be contacted and instructed on permit fees due prior to issuance. The SDOT decision will be posted for 10 days on the DPD's LUIB. The applicant will need to pay the permit fees and sign the permit at the Street Use Permit Counter to obtain their sidewalk café permit. The sidewalk café cannot be installed until all applicable fees have been collected and an approved Street Use Permit has been issued. The sidewalk café permit must be stored on site and available to view when requested.
  1. Request for Review or Reconsideration. Request for Review or Reconsideration. A request for review or reconsideration of an SDOT sidewalk café permit decision may be made to the SDOT Director by submitting a written request within 10 days of the permit decision posting (SMC 15.04.112). The request must identify the decision for which review or reconsideration is requested, grounds for objecting to the decision based on City standards, and the specific remedy being proposed. The Director's decision on review or reconsideration will be final.

The applicant must provide proof of at least $1 million dollars in liability insurance while the permit is in effect , including potential claims for bodily injury, death, or disability and property damage which may arise from or be related to the use of sidewalk area for sidewalk café purposes. The insurance must name the City of Seattle as an additional insured. Be sure the insurance documents include specific endorsements such as CG 20 12 or CG 20 26.

Please review SDOT CAM 2102, Certificate of Liability Insurance, for specific requirements.

The one-time application review fee of $516.00 is due at the time the application is submitted. Payment may be made in cash, check or credit card (VISA or MC). Platforms require a separate permit for a structure in the right-of-way, which has an additional application and review fee.

Annual permit fees are due once an application has been approved and must be paid in full for one year before a Street Use Permit will be issued. The Annual Use Fee covers a one-year period only and are not pro-rated based on monthly or seasonal use. The current 2009 permit fee is $146.00 plus $1.56 per square foot of sidewalk area used by the sidewalk café on public property. SDOT will send an invoice to renew the sidewalk café permit annually if permit is in good standing.

All Street Use permits, including Sidewalk café permits, are wholly of a temporary nature and can be revoked by SDOT given a 30-day notice, per SMC 15.04.070. Operators of sidewalk cafés must comply with the terms and conditions of the Street Use Permit, and must maintain the sidewalk in a clean and safe condition for pedestrian use. In the event that a sidewalk cafe does not meet the terms and conditions of the permit, SDOT may issue a Notice of Violation or citation to the applicant.

In the event of a major public event, such as a parade, the business shall remove the sidewalk café if asked to do so by SDOT or other City authorities with at least 24 hours notice.  In the event of an emergency, the City may immediately clear the sidewalk café to preserve public health and safety and shall not be responsible for damages.

If the Street Use Permit is not renewed annually with payment, does not conform to the original terms and conditions, or a business changes hands, a new permit is required.


  • What if I already have a sidewalk café permit? Existing permitted sidewalk cafés may continue as permitted and will continue to renew annually unless SDOT determines that a particular permit does not meet the conditions of their original permit, or if current site conditions require updating the permit conditions.
  • How do I report an issue with noise or a café that is encroaching too far into the sidewalk? The City has a noise abatement team. More information and contacts can be found at
    Noise related issues should be directed to the Seattle Police Department's non-emergency number at (206) 625-5011.
    Problems with encroaching into the sidewalk will be handled by SDOT - they can be reached at 206-684-5283 from 8AM to 5PM during the work week. SDOT has the right to require immediate changes if a sidewalk café has encroached beyond its permitted area, and may revoke an approved sidewalk café permit if there is an ongoing problem.
  • Will sidewalk cafes be required to provide ADA access? SDOT Director’s Rule 1-2009, requires new sidewalk cafes to retain an ADA-compliant path-of-travel for pedestrians on the sidewalk, to provide a detectable barrier between the sidewalk café and the path of travel, and to provide wheelchair access to seating platforms.
    SDOT will continue to require existing sidewalk cafes to maintain an ADA- compliant path-of-travel for pedestrians around the sidewalk cafe.
  • What about sidewalk cafés on private property? Outdoor seating areas on private property would continue to require DPD review and approval, except where any portions are proposed in the public right-of-way.
  • Will increased seating require a new occupancy permit? Sidewalk cafés generally do not count against the approved occupant load, provided the cafe area has an independent exit to public area or is no larger than 75 square feet.
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