Street-side cafes coming to Historic Downtown Snohomish

  • Sun Aug 22nd, 2010 10:33pm
  • News

By Alejandro Dominguez Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH — Soon, the stores in the Historic Downtown Snohomish will be able to serve customers on the sidewalks.

All thanks to the owner of Cathouse Pizza.

Don Everest applied for a sidewalk cafe when he was starting his business at First Avenue about four weeks ago.

He had the idea for years but tourists started asking for street-side dining. He sent in his application stating that time was of the essence.

“If we do it, let’s do it now before the summer ends,” he said.

The city had a loose policy allowing businesses to set up tables and benches on the sidewalks. Everest was asking for an alcohol permit, setting up the City Council’s discussion to make an amendment to their municipal code.

The council passed the ordinance allowing the private use of public streets and sidewalks last week.

Everest is happy by the quick response of the council, and businesses can start applying for permits Thursday, the first day the resolution goes into effect.

Currently, he is the only one who has applied for the permit, according to senior planner Owen Dennison.

In fact, Everest has been the only one to apply in years.

“This is the first request of a sidewalk cafe since I have been here,” said Dennison, who has been with the city three years.

Businesses wishing to have a permit must apply to the city planner. They must pay a $20 annual inspection fee and pay 50 cents per square foot of the sidewalk they want to use.

The ordinance states that at least 6 feet of sidewalk must be for public use without any kind of obstructions. Sidewalks on 1st Street are about 10 to 12 feet, Dennison said.

Planning director Corbitt Loch said that the city had planned for sidewalks cafes for years but it was not a priority until now.

Alcohol can be served on the sidewalk, Loch said. If there is improper behavior or problems with public safety, the city can take back the permit, he said.

The ordinance states that alcohol may be provided when establishments offer food and must also comply with applicable state laws that include setting up a barrier between the public sidewalk and the business.

Loch believes, however, that cafes are not a significant threat.

“Because they are in a high level of visibility, this helps curtail inappropriate behavior,” Loch said.

“The benefits outweighs the risks and concerns,” Snohomish Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Rasmussen said. He wrote a letter representing the chamber’s board of directors to the council to show support for the cafes.

Everest said cities with dinner cafes look wonderful. He does not mind paying the fees because the cafes will allow him to have more clients and the people eating outside can be used as a marketing tool to attract more clients.

“Everybody wins. I am glad the city’s on board,” he said.

The new permit will not only help restaurants, but other stores like Annie’s on First, the vintage home store that neighbors Cathouse Pizza. The owner is planning to use the sidewalk to promote its products.

“We can (put) products outside to draw people in,” Annie McDowell said.

McDowell said the permit is needed so the “small town can evolve” and improve its atmosphere.

Kimberly McIlrath, president of Historic Downtown Snohomish and owner of Faded Elegance, a shop that sells crafts and home and garden decor, loves the idea of sidewalk cafes.

“It’s fabulous,” she said. “It will help in adding vitality and drawing more visitors to downtown.”

Snohomish Bakery already has a sidewalk cafe with two tables and chairs. In a week, this will be unlawful without a permit. Owner Andy Papadatos has no choice but to get the permit.

“I can’t stop using a sidewalk cafe,” Papadatos said.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.