Skip to main content

Safe Start Temporary Outdoor Café Permit

This permit allows restaurant service and outdoor seating on the sidewalk or in curb space parking through January 31, 2023. Alcohol service may be allowed through an "Extending Outside Liquor Service" permit through Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB). Download the Alteration Request Form to begin the process. Please contact the WSLCB with any questions about alcohol service. 

Who can apply?

  • Restaurants that provide table service to customers. 

What you should know:

  • Outdoor dining must be located on the sidewalk or curb space parking adjacent to the restaurant. 
  • Restaurants must provide their own fencing and/or diverters to meet the temporary fencing requirements. Please see our flyer on Equipment for Outdoor Temporary Permits for examples. 
  • We've published weather protection guidance that contains details on permissible shelters and furniture that may be used without additional SDOT review. Please be aware that the Seattle Fire Department, Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, and Seattle Department of Neighborhood Historic/Landmark approvals may still be required, and that those agencies may have additional rules that affect your proposal.  
  • You are responsible for all equipment, including taking it down during storms or high winds that might pose a risk to the public. 
  • The City is not responsible for vandalism, theft, or misuse of equipment.  
  • Temporary outdoor cafes typically would not be approved in existing loading zones, but we may consider exceptions. 
  • Temporary outdoor cafes may not be located in travel lanes (including bike and bus lanes).
  • Permitted temporary cafes structures may remain in the public place outside of business hours. (If you were permitted in a load zone that is operational outside of your business hours or in a Farmers' Market footprint, this does not apply - reach out to us if you are unsure!).
  • If your restaurant is located in a designated historic district, you must receive approval from the historic district before the permit can be issued, but we will send your materials to them directly so you don't need to apply separately.
  • If you already have an existing sidewalk café permit from us and you want to expand, you will need to submit a new temporary use application.
  • We also offer permits to temporarily close your street to vehicle traffic. If you and other businesses on your block are interested in this permit, please check out our Safe Start Temporary Street Closures page
  • We are also posting structures that we have approved here. We make these available so other businesses can understand what has been approved and possibly use them for similar site conditions.

Updated Public Notification Requirements

To issue our permits faster, we’re not requiring the normal two-week public comment period for new temporary vending sites. Instead, applicants are required to notify nearby residents and businesses of the proposed vending location at least 2 days before beginning operations. You can find more guidance on public notification in CAM 2117

Download a public notification flyer that you can complete, print out, and distribute!

How to apply

Use the detailed bullet points directly below to help you complete your online application form 

  • Log in to the Seattle Services Portal
  • Select  Permits - Street Use  
  • Open Short Term Use  
  • Select Temporary Activation
  • Project Name: Important! Please put: "Safe Starts," followed by your business name. This will help us expedite your application.
  • Project and Location Description: Please describe in detail your temporary café and let us know your proposed hours of operations and if you'll be serving alcohol  
  • Use Details: In this section of the application, you'll need to create one Row for each day of the week you wish to operate in the right of way (for example, if you wish to operate just on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you'll have 3 rows, if every day of the week, you'll have 7 rows). For each row, follow these instructions in this order for the Safe Starts Temporary Permit:  
    • Use Code Description: Select "Street/Sidewalk Activities"
    • Use Code: This will automatically fill in with "3A"  
    • Side of Street: Choose side of street where you'll place your temporary cafe 
    • Mobility Type: Choose based on your plan; this will likely be either Sidewalk or Parking Lane  
    • Closure Type: Choose "Partially Closed and Accessible"  
    • Use Start Date: Choose the first day you plan to open your temporary activation (the date should be in the future)  
    • Duration (Days):  Fill in "210" depending on when you apply, we will adjust this number so that the permit will be valid through 5/31/22.
    • Day of the Week: You can only choose one day per Use Details row
    • Start Time: Enter the time of day you will begin setting up for service 
    • End Time: zEnter the time of day after operations have ceased when cleanup is completed
    • Planned Number of Attendees: Leave this blank  
    • Expired Date: This will automatically fill in  

Ensure your application includes all required documents; these should be uploaded to your application:

  • Letter of Authorization: Upload a signed Letter of Authorization if you are NOT the business owner or the property owner  
  • Site Plan Types: We cannot review your application without a site plan. This shows the measurements and exact location of the area that you want to use. You may choose one of the following ways to create your plan before uploading.   
    • Create a formal site plan (see CAM 2116 for additional information and template available here); OR 
    • Create a photo-based plan with 3 photos that follow the specific guidelines below.  
      • All 3 photos are required to complete your site plan. One of your photos must show the required dimensions described in the Site Plan Details further below. If you find it hard to digitally show your footprint on a photo, please "draw" the proposed café corners or full outline directly on the sidewalk or street using tape or chalk. Do this before you take photos! 
      • Photo #1: Stand about 10 feet away from the proposed café footprint and take a photo of the proposed café area. If you've pre-marked the corners, capture them in your photo, as well as some background to help identify placement! 
      • Photo #2: Take a similar photo from the other side of the proposed café area. 
      • Photo #3: Take a photo showing your full restaurant/building's frontage and including the café corners. 
      • Choose one of the photos and mark-it up to include all required dimensions. You can do this digitally or print a photo and mark it up by hand. 
  • Site Plan Details: However you create your site plan, it must include all the information listed below. Without this information, your application may take longer for us to review and approve. You'll need to get out your tape measure for this, and clearly indicate on your plan:
    • Footprint Dimensions: Indicate the length and width of the proposed outdoor seating area. If you are proposing an area in the "furniture zone" of the sidewalk, you must show the measurement from the edge of the sidewalk (the curb) to the edge of the proposed footprint. You need at least 4' between the urb and the start of your temporary outdoor seating area.
    • Pedestrian Clear Zone: If you are proposing vending on a sidewalk, indicate the sidewalk width next to the outdoor seating area footprint to show how pedestrians will travel on the sidewalk. The minimum required pedestrian clear zone is 6 feet in most neighborhoods (an 8 foot minimum width is required in some areas downtown -see Streets Illustrated section 2.3). NOTE: If there is not enough space for the minimum clear zone, then you may be ineligible for this permit. 
    • Clearance from other fixed objects: The sidewalk may include other objects such as light poles, trees, parking meters, hydrants, and bike racks. Please measure the distance from those objects to the edge of your footprint and include these dimensions on your plan.  
    • Curb space identifier numbers: If you're proposing a curb space café in a paid parking area, please provide the curb space identifier number(s) (use this map to find the numbers).  

A car parked in a space next to the curb

An example photo site plan with required dimensions  

Fencing Details: Fencing is required for all curb space cafes and cafes in the furniture zone (on sidewalk near curb), and may be used for cafes next to the building. If you prefer a fence-free café next to the building, diverters are required for ADA purposes. Based on whether you propose a fenced or fence-free café, we'll need the following details: 

    • Description of diverters for fence-free cafes, including dimensions and drawing or photo. Diverters must be 30" to 42" high (See DR 02-2019 Section 6.6.3 for additional guidance).  
    • Description of fencing for fenced cafes, including dimensions, drawing or photo, or description of fencing material.  Fencing must be 42" high if serving alcohol, and between 30" and 42" high if not serving alcohol. Any fencing on the sidewalk must be cane-detectable; this includes the portion of curb space café fencing that runs along the sidewalk. (See DR 02-2019 Section 6.3 for additional guidance).  
    • If you are located in a Historic District, you will need to upload document(s) along with your site plan that show the color and finish for all furniture, delineators, planters, fencing, or other features that you plan to use. Photos, images from websites, or catalog cut sheets are acceptable if they are in color. We will send this information to Historic District staff for their review; you do not need to submit separately to them for a Certificate of Approval. Note: Except for the fencing and traffic control materials you will use to define the permitted area, more subdued colors are recommended, such as grey/dark green or similar for any furniture, fence, or posts.         

What's next?

Once you have submitted your application for a Safe Starts Temporary permit, here are some additional steps you can take to prepare for launch!    

  • If you plan on using the curb space, in addition to the permit from our team, you'll also need to apply for Temporary No Parking permits.  When you are applying, there's a General Information section and you can select a "reason" for your application. Select "other" and write "Safe Starts Temporary Permit" so we know that your request needs to be expedited.  
  • For both non-paid and paid parking spaces, you'll need to apply online via the same Seattle Services Portal you use for our application. You'll apply for the "Temporary No Parking Zone (unpaid area)." This generates a public notice which must be attached to the No Parking barricades. 
  • The public notice generated will need to be posted to No Parking barricades (T-39 signs) that you could purchase or rent from a barricade company. We recommend placing the barricades up 72 hours before you plan to set up, but they must be up at least 24 hours ahead to be enforceable.  
  • Notify your neighbors of your intended use of the public place at least two days prior to starting your new operation. Follow the guidance in CAM 2117.  
  • Ensure that you hold insurance that meets city requirements. For guidance, see CAM 2102.

Follow the links below to a guide for outdoor equipment options you may find useful.  


Greg Spotts, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 3800, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34996, Seattle, WA, 98124-4996
Phone: (206) 684-7623

Newsletter Updates


Sign up for the latest updates from Transportation

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is on a mission to deliver a transportation system that provides safe and affordable access to places and opportunities for everyone as we work to achieve our vision of Seattle as a thriving, equitable community powered by dependable transportation.