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Edmonds City Council fails to vote on decreasing cost of 'streatery' permits

The amendment to the ordinance would have lowered the cost of a "streatery" permit from $4,000 down to $2,000 or less.

EDMONDS, Wash. — The Edmonds City Council did not vote on whether to decrease the cost of "streatery" permits as COVID-19 cases continue to rise due to the omicron variant after two members left the meeting Monday evening.

Citing uncertainty over the legality of the meeting, Councilmember Will Chen became the second to leave. That created a situation where there was no quorum and the meeting ended.

It's unclear what the next steps are. According to the council's website, it's regular meetings scheduled for Dec. 21 and 28 were canceled. 

The meeting started down two council members and Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson. 

Councilmember Vivian Olson excused herself from the meeting, citing her discomfort with the way the meeting was scheduled.

Chen said he wasn't comfortable with voting on the issue with the council being down three members, despite city officials saying the meeting was legal.

"Streateries" are outdoor dining structures some businesses erected in public parking spaces during capacity restrictions on restaurants and bars. The Edmonds City Council voted just last week to require businesses to pay a $4,000 fee to renew their permits until April 30, 2022.

The amendment to the ordinance would have lowered the cost of a "streatery" permit from $4,000 to $2,000, which could also be paid off in monthly installments, according to the proposed amendment text.

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City Council President Susan Paine initially voted for the $4,000 fee, but has proposed the reduced amount as well as installments.

Additionally, the amendment would extend the permit's expiration date from April 30 to May 31, 2022.

"If we want to do this and have streateries stay here longer, we should develop a program that is thought through from start to finish, and has lots of fingerprints on it so it can be acceptable to the community," said Paine. 

Jeff Barnett, owner of Salish Sea Brewpubs said the $4,000 fee is a "killer," especially since it's only good through April. 

"This is the highest rate in the entire nation. The city of Seattle is a fraction of this," he said.

One of his employees, Michelle Hammons, is a mother of two and worries this could impact her livelihood as well as the restaurant's chance of survival. 

"It makes you have to consider if you have to go look for work somewhere else or get a second job," said Hammons. 

The proposed amendment comes as COVID-19 cases are rising globally due to the omicron variant. The amendment text lists the possibility of future "COVID-related restrictions on restaurants," COVID-19 variants and lower than ideal vaccination rates as motivating factors for the vote.  

There has been no indication that COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants will go back into effect. In an interview with KING 5 on Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee said he was not contemplating any new COVID-19 restrictions "in the immediate future" aside from further guidelines for high school athletics.

Click here to see Monday's Edmonds City Council meeting agenda.

Reporter Eric Wilkinson contributed to this report.