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Edmonds restaurants must pay $4,000 fee to keep streateries into Spring 2022, per new ordinance

EDMONDS, Wash. — Outdoor dining spaces on public streets, also known as “streateries,” will cost thousands to keep for businesses in downtown Edmonds.

This past Thursday, Edmonds City Council approved Ordinance 4243 to require business owners to pay $4,000, if those businesses want to keep their streateries in place until April 30, 2022. If the one-time fee is not paid, business owners will be required to take down the streateries by Jan. 15, 2022.

Before the ordinance was passed, the streateries would have been required to be taken down by Dec. 31, 2021, per city policy. There are 17 streateries in downtown Edmonds, according to the city council.

On Monday, the city council will hold a special meeting to discuss a new amendment to the ordinance. If passed, it would lower the fee from $4,000 to $2,000. It would also allow the fee to be paid in monthly installments (rather than a one-time fee) and extend the ordinance until May 31, 2022. The first payment of $400 would be due on Dec. 31, 2021.

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson disagreed with the ordinance, calling it “the highest permit fee in the nation.”

“Our small businesses that were hurt the most will now need to pay the most,” Nelson stated. “This action will have a crippling impact to our downtown.”

Ordinance supporters, including neighboring business owners, argue the streateries take away valuable parking in front of other businesses and block views of storefronts.

Edmonds City Councilmember Vivian Olson tells KIRO 7 she voted against the streatery extension, but agrees with the “good outcomes” the ordinance seeks. That includes increasing parking accessibility downtown, leveling the playing field between restaurants that previously paid for their outdoor dining seating versus those currently using it for free, and using the fees to increase free parking lots nearby.

Olson also said the $4,000 fee for the four-month period was based on the market value of rentals in downtown Edmonds, but said, “I still voted against the extension at that price.”

Jeff Barnett, owner of Salish Sea Brewing in downtown Edmonds, said the ordinance “took everybody off guard.”

“There is no logic to it, at all,” Barnett said. “We (can’t) allocate $4,000 for doing this structure/streatery. We really appreciate that (city council is) trying to come up with accommodations, but it’s outside of the possibilities. This is coming up on the hardest time of the year. It’s the slowest time of the year for our business.”

Barnett also called his streatery a “lifeline to our business” that’s “kept my business open.”

Niko Raptis, owner of The Loft Kitchen + Bar in downtown Edmonds, also disagrees with the ordinance. He said he doesn’t agree with the argument that parking directly in front of a business is necessary for its success.

“When you go to the mall, you don’t expect to find parking right outside of Nordstrom or wherever you go to eat,” Raptis said. “The parking situation is not new. It was always here. … I don’t understand why all of a sudden (in Edmonds), you have to park in front of the restaurant or whatever store you’re going to buy something.”

When asked about the potential amendment to be considered on Monday, Raptis said he agreed with it due to a lack of options.

“Anything is better than what we’re at right now. I’m not going to say it’s the best, but it is what it is,” he said.

Barnett said he appreciates city council members who vote either way on the ordinance, even if he disagrees with their decision.

“We don’t have to agree with everything. We have to understand that people have different standing points. That’s (city council’s) job. They have difficult roles to fill,” Barnett said. “I think the fee, in general, is too much. I think it’s outrageous for these things during the (pandemic). If we were looking at this as a non-pandemic situation, things are different. But this is a pandemic response, not in normal circumstances.”

The city council’s special meeting for the newly-proposed amendment to Ordinance 4243 will take place on Monday, Dec. 20 at 5 p.m. The meeting will be held virtually on Zoom. More information can be found on the meeting’s agenda here.