Sidewalk Cafes

Last Updated: 6-17-2017Print page


Photo of a sidewalk cafe at Skillet Diner in downtown Seattle

Sidewalk cafes provide an opportunity for businesses to expand their restaurant, cafe, or bar onto the adjacent sidewalk. With proper design and management, sidewalk caf├ęs can be a great way to encourage walking, add vitality to streets and commercial districts, and promote economic development.

SDOT issues two types of permits for sidewalk seating. A Tables and Chairs Permit allows businesses to place sets of tables and chairs on the adjacent sidewalk. Under this permit type, tables and chairs must be available for the general public, table service may not be provided, and railings and other permanently-affixed elements may not be installed. A Sidewalk Cafe Permit, however, may be issued for businesses that would like to provide table or alcohol service for their patrons. While sidewalk cafes operate as private space for their hosting businesses, they can benefit the surrounding neighborhood by encouraging positive activity in the right-of-way and providing greenery and seating space on sidewalks. Under both types of permits, pedestrian clear zone and pedestrian straight path standards must be followed.