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New McGinn Policy Allows More Sidewalk Cafes

Washington State Liquor Control Board adopts new policy proposed by Mayor Mike McGinn

SEATTLE– The Washington State Liquor Control Board this week adopted an interim policy allowing Seattle restaurants to establish sidewalk cafés in more locations. Existing rules limit sidewalk café alcohol service to areas immediately adjacent to a building. In many cases, sidewalks in these areas are not wide enough to allow for both pedestrian travel and a café. The new rules give restaurants more flexibility, including an option for curbside sidewalk cafés.

“This rule change is a big win for our local businesses and neighborhoods,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “We worked closely with the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Department of Planning and Development, and the Liquor Control Board to get this done. Allowing more sidewalk cafés will help improve urban vitality and give restaurants and patrons more choices.”

“We support the City of Seattle’s efforts to make outside dining more accessible,” said Washington State Liquor Control Board Chair Sharon Foster. “This has been a collaborative process that we hope will be positive for licensees choosing to participate. While the effort was shouldered by the City of Seattle, this interim policy will apply statewide.”

“We’re really excited about this new rule change,” said Josh McDonald, of the Seattle Restaurant Alliance. “This will help bars and restaurants expand and provide a better climate for new customers, and will also help with the city’s plan to activate outdoor spaces including sidewalks, plazas and parks.”

Restaurants with an on-premise liquor licenses will be able to extend their food and alcohol service to the curb side of a sidewalk public right-of-way areas if their request to the Liquor Control Board is approved and if they are given a permit from the City of Seattle.

This new policy supports Seattle’s comprehensive Nightlife Initiative, which aims to maintain public safety and provide businesses with greater flexibility to adapt to the market demands of residents and visitors. Last month Mayor McGinn took the first step toward changing state policy to allow extended service hours. More information about the Nightlife Initiative and its components can be found at