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Good News! Our new and improved outdoor dining, vending, merchandise display, and street closure permits are here to stay!

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During the early days of COVID, we made temporary changes to how we permit outdoor dining, merchandise displays, vending, and street and sidewalk closures. These changes were called “Safe Start Permits.” These were temporary, free permits that made it easier for businesses and communities to use our streets and sidewalks to provide safe space for people to dine, shop, and socialize.

We are now happy to announce that we are moving away from the temporary Safe Start program toward more permanent changes inspired by Safe Start successes! That means your favorite outdoor café, food truck, or food cart is more likely to stick around! You can find the basics in our proposals below.

“Thanks to the leadership of the Mayor and Councilmember Dan Strauss, Seattle’s streets are even more welcoming to all sorts of activation and interaction, from streateries to food trucks to merchandise displays. These policies will empower Seattle’s small businesses and community groups to bring to life their creative ideas, making our streetscape more vibrant, attractive and fun.”

Greg Spotts, Director, Seattle Department of Transportation

Outdoor Dining

Our revamped outdoor dining options are influenced by many of the successes seen during the pandemic. We continue to allow outdoor dining with structures both along the edges of the sidewalk and in the curb space. Some structures may need to be altered or strengthened to withstand inclement weather. We have expanded opportunities for restaurants by offering a new, seasonal permit. This permit will be valid from April through October. It is ideal for businesses open for outdoor dining in the warmer months. While outdoor dining permits were offered free during the pandemic, our ongoing program is required to recover our costs, so fees will be coming back.

Visit our website for more information, fees, and links to application materials.

People sit at an outdoor eating area along the street, with large trees in the background. Pavement is in the lower left corner.
People enjoying outdoor dining in Capitol Hill in summer 2022. Photo credit: Ethan Bergerson

Merchandise Display

Our recent changes provide retail businesses a way to display merchandise directly in front of their stores without a permit and with no fees!

While we believe this permit-free option will serve the vast majority of interested retailers, it will not apply to displays that do not meet our guidelines for design and placement. This smaller group of displays will still require a permit that will have fees. Businesses wishing to follow the permit path can apply for a long-term permit or a less expensive seasonal permit. The long-term permits renew annually. Seasonal permits are valid from April through October.

Our permanent program does not offer an option for merchandise displays located in the curb space except in special situations.

Visit our website for more information, links to application materials, and fees.

Outdoor book display in West Seattle. Photo: SDOT.


Our Street and Sidewalk Vending Program has grown steadily over time. It offers steady opportunities to new and established small businesses. We issue most of our vending permits for 12 months.  

Adding opportunities for new vendors was challenging before the pandemic. Committing to an uncertain, new site for a full year can prove daunting, especially on limited resources. We now offer a four-month trial permit to address this challenge. The permit’s timeframe and reduced cost supports vendors’ efforts to try out new locations. The idea comes from vendors who took part in a small vendor advisory group in 2021.

We are also creating more vending opportunities by removing restrictions on the types of vending, number of vendors, and zoning.

Visit our web page for information about the changes to the vending program and fees.

Street vending. Photo: SDOT.

Street and Sidewalk Activities

Our Street and Sidewalk Activity Permits allow institutions, community groups, and organizations to use our streets, alleys, and plazas. By enlivening these spaces, these activities strengthen our sense of community. During the pandemic, these permits were used to provide extra space for restaurants and retail stores to serve customers. As the effects of the pandemic continue to wane, these permits will once again broaden to include activities of many types.

Stay tuned for upcoming website updates next month!

A kid wearing a Lucha Libre mask draws with markers at a community event in Lake City. Many people are sitting and standing, with large trees and power lines above, as well as blue skies and clouds.
A kid wearing a Lucha Libre mask draws with markers at a community event in Lake City. Photo: SDOT.