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Seattle asking for public feedback on making outdoor dining areas permanent

The City of Seattle offered permits to restaurants during the pandemic that allowed them to set up outdoor dining areas to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

SEATTLE — Outdoor dining exploded in Seattle during the pandemic and now the city is moving toward making the sidewalk cafes and street set-ups permanent. 

City officials have been gathering feedback for months and the public has until Aug.15 to weigh in on changes that could permanently impact the look of Seattle. People can access the city's survey here.

The Safe Starts permits that allowed sidewalk, and sometimes street dining, started as a way to keep restaurants from going out of business. If people didn't feel safe eating inside, the city helped restaurants set up a way for people to eat outside.

The city already extended the permits into next year and officials say this may be the look of Seattle permanently. The city says they want to hear from customers, restaurant owners, neighbors and others through its online survey

“We're wanting to stop and listen and hear from folks how it's working, make sure we hear from people with disabilities, how are these spaces are working for people with disabilities,” said Alyse Nelson with the Seattle Department of Transportation.

There seems to be widespread support among participating restaurants who believe it’s helped them make up for some of the money they’ve lost. 

“It's been really rewarding to hear from businesses that have permits that having the Safe Starts permit has really been a lifeline. It's helped them be able to stay in business during the pandemic,” Nelson said.

More than 260 permits have been issued. The city wants to use the feedback to put together a report by the end of the year that they can send to the Seattle City Council and then use to formalize legislation.

The current permits run until May of 2022.