It may be cooler, windier and wetter, but you can still safely dine outdoors in Snohomish County.
Several cities, including Edmonds, Everett and Snohomish, have extended their “streatery” initiatives to allow for safer dining during the COVID-19 pandemic. They recognize that while many of us want to go out to eat, some of us are still reluctant to be served indoors.
In Edmonds, restaurants and bars are allowed to set up additional seating in parking spots through Nov. 8. In Everett, the street dining will be allowed through Nov. 30. Snohomish’s program will stretch to Dec. 31.
To help keep customers warm and dry, many restaurants with outdoor seating have set up tents or canopies, and some have added heaters and fire pits. Others also have made their streatery more visible to passing drivers.
Julio Cortes, Everett’s senior communications officer, admitted that weather will play a factor in how well restaurants fare this fall — but maintained that allowing for additional seating outdoors is one of the best ways the city can help out.
“It’s a great way for them to continue to serve customers with the governor’s restrictions on indoor dining in restaurants,” he said. “Now with the outdoor streatery program, restaurants are able to seat more people than they would have without it.”
Restaurants and bars have been on a rollercoaster since Snohomish County was OK’d for Phase 2. In June, Gov. Jay Inlsee’s rules allowed them seat up to five per table, as long as the tables are spaced to maintain 6 feet of distance.
But after an alarming resurgence in COVID-19 over the summer, Inslee tightened restrictions. In August, indoor dining was limited to members of the same household and alcohol service after 10 p.m. was prohibited. Bars had to cut indoor seating entirely unless they also served food.
Then, in October, Inslee loosened rules, permitting alcohol sales in bars and restaurants up to 11 p.m. Eateries can now seat as many at six at a table — and they no longer have to be from the same household.
City staff said they’ve opened up their streets downtown to help restaurants and bars survive.
“Snohomish is popping right now,” said Wendy Poischbeg, Snohomish’s Economic Development and Communications Manager. “It has not curtailed our visitors at all. People have really enjoyed the outdoor seating, so we’re looking at ways to continue it.”
In Everett, you’ll find outdoor seating at The Independent Beer Bar, Cafe Zippy, Jimmy Peppers, Capers & Olives, Golden Fleece and the Anchor Pub. Cortes said more restaurants will be added to this list as permits are approved.
Streetside dining in Edmonds opened in August to all restaurants and bars downtown — not just those on Main Street. A list of eateries was not readily available.
And, in Snohomish, you can eat out at Andy’s Fish House, Christina’s Sandwichboard, Cathouse Pizza, Fred’s Rivertown Ale House, Piccadilly Circus, Randolph Cellars, Double Barrel Wine Bar, Uptown Wine Bar, Cabbage Patch Restaurant, The Repp, Kasia Winery, Everything Tea, The Oxford Saloon, Who’s on First, First and Union Bakery, Brava’s Pizza, Jake’s Cafe, Trails End Taphouse, Hops & Drops, The Blazing Onion, Josh’s Taps and Caps, and Sound to Summit Brewing Co. Snohomish’s initiative launched in June.
Edmonds and Snohomish don’t require a special permit.
“This will allow restaurants to continue to offer outdoor eating areas, which both helps them overcome the ongoing capacity restrictions and provides what many customers want — a safer place to dine than indoors,” said Patrick Doherty, director of Edmonds’ Economic Development and Community Services Department.
Staffers said that street dining has the potential to become a mainstay — even after COVID-19 is eradicated. Doherty said a long-term proposal will be reviewed by the Edmonds City Council this month.
“I would much rather sit outside; I think it’s a fun experience,” Cortes said. “I hope some of our restaurants see it as an opportunity to provide outdoor seating even after COVID-19.”
Tiffany Tran, owner of Chanterelle in Edmonds, said they’re able to seat five more tables outdoors. They’ve built a wooden shelter, complete with an awning and stringed lights overhead, for their streetside diners. Tran said a standing heater isn’t in their budget.
“They have that option to sit outdoors if they feel more comfortable,” she said. “We ask them to dress appropriately to stay warm.”
Before COVID-19, 21 inside tables were available in Chanterelle. With the bar closed off, the restaurant can only seat up to eight tables indoors.
Marilyn Rosenberg, owner of Cafe Zippy in Everett, has set up tents and fire pit tables for customers. The cafe’s patio is outfitted with standing heaters, and Rosenberg said she plans to add fencing to the area. She has just four tables inside, whereas outdoors she has enough room for 21 more customers.
“It came at the right time when we just really needed it,” Rosenberg said of the city’s streatery program. “People still don’t want to sit inside — and I don’t blame them. Outside air is the best quality.”
Tran said Chantrelle’s revenue has dropped to 25% of normal, while Rosenberg said hers is about half of what it was before the pandemic. Both say the streatery programs have helped them stay in business.
“We’re allowing these restaurants to be at almost three-quarter capacity of what they would have normally been,” Poischbeg said of Snohomish’s initiative. “It’s not even getting them to normal, but at least it’s not crushing.”
Jessica Gilbert, co-owner of The Repp in Snohomish, strung up lights and hung a chandelier to their space surrounded by three walls that were provided by the city. They have nine tables inside and five more set up in their parking spots. They have two standing heaters and offer blankets to keep customers warm.
“For losing our 30 seats in the bar, we’re getting 20 which is a huge difference,” Gilbert said, adding that the restaurant’s revenue is at about 70% of pre-COVID. “We were able to bring back couple of employees … because we needed the extra help.”
Jeff Barnett, co-owner of Salish Sea Brewing Co. in Edmonds, said his customers are more willing to take a seat indoors now that it’s cold and wet, but that they still have customers who prefer to bundle up and sit outdoors.
Barnett said streetside dining has helped the brewery tremendously because they’re able to accommodate for some of the seating they lost on the inside.
“We’re not where we should be, but we’re able to keep the doors open,” he said. “We’re trying to keep a positive outlook.”
Barnett added that the 10 or 11 p.m. cut off for alcohol sales hasn’t affected Salish Sea because they close the brewery at 9 p.m.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; @sarabruestle.