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Seattle's streetside cafes may become permanent after program extended

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a measure to allow for free permitting of streetside cafes, extending a pilot program.

SEATTLE — Necessity is the mother of all reinvention, and it now may prompt a permanent change in Seattle. 

On Monday, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a measure to allow for free permitting of streetside cafes, extending a pilot program that was launched during the pandemic.

"We're able to meet the changing health guidelines without impacting our businesses as severely," said Seattle Council member Dan Strauss as he strolled down Ballard Avenue with KING 5 on Monday.  

His bill, co-sponsored by Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez, extends the program through May of 2022, allows businesses to seek permission to expand their outdoor seating in public parking areas and other public spaces. 

Multiple Ballard businesses took advantage of the program, establishing semi-permanent wooden pergolas along Ballard Avenue. Max Genereaux, who owns Hattie's Hat, is among them. 

"Every seat in a restaurant is money and it's going to help me get out of debt," Genereaux said, describing described the past several months as a "living hell" for small business owners. 

Genereaux said the coalition of business owners decided to opt for uniformity to increase foot traffic and make the area a destination. 

"I feel a lot of hope," Genereaux said. "I feel better right now than this entire pandemic, from a business perspective, at least." 

Strauss says he fully intends for the measure to become permanent. The legislation allows for extra time to craft a long-term strategy with the Seattle Department of Transportation.