EVERETT — Soon, people can do tai chi, chow on vegan chili and imbibe an IPA streetside.
The city of Everett launched its “streatery” program last week. Modeled after street cafes that have cropped up in Bothell, Edmonds, across the country and are especially popular in Europe, it lets business owners apply to use public parking and sidewalks for additional seating space. The application and permit are free, and the city provides fencing and signs to block off parking spots to approved spaces.
Everett’s program isn’t as robust as those others and, instead of closing down an entire road to traffic, it lets each business owner apply to use public parking spaces and sidewalk.
“By proposing this option to restaurants and breweries and any other type of shopping business, we can enable them to have more seats in a safe way outside,” city spokesperson Julio Cortes said.
A week after the program was announced, five businesses applied and were likely to receive approval. All of them are in north Everett or downtown; four are restaurants or bars: The Anchor Pub, Cafe Wylde, Cafe Zippy and The Independent Beer Bar. El Paraiso, Golden Fleece and Zamarama Gallery are also applying.
“Any business in the city of Everett, whether it’s a bar or restaurant or retail, can apply,” Cortes said.
Doug Hall, co-owner with Jeff Sadighi of The Independent Beer Bar on Hewitt and Rockefeller avenues, said the shifting rules for bars challenged the industry. During the stay-home order in March and April, revenue took a hit. When they welcomed customers back, capacity was limited and was further cut by the state recently; the idea is that with fewer people, there is more space between them, which lowers the risk of spreading the new coronavirus.
“We can only do half capacity of what we normally do,” Hall said. “Beyond that, the restrictions inside for eating are that you have to be with your bubble.”
The Independent Beer Bar’s owners applied for a couple of parking spots on Rockefeller and an expansion of its sidewalk patio. Hall said it should fit seven tables outside, in addition to the spartan seating inside. People are limited to five seats if they’re from the same household.
But the once busy beer and wine spot, which also serves dumplings, was built around the idea of people coming together for a glass or two.
“Basically what our bar is, is a very cool living room,” Hall said. “Most of the people coming to the bar are there to see people they haven’t seen.”
Outdoor seating lets people do that if they’re sitting at adjacent tables 6 feet apart. Hall went to Lowe’s last week to buy patio furniture for the new setup. For now, they’ll be uncovered, but the tall buildings west of the area provide shade after 4 p.m., which is when the bar opens anyway these days.
Hall is also one of the owners of the Republic Bottleshop, which opened in the early days of the pandemic on April 24. The shop has a private parking lot where they’re allowed to use a few spaces for covered outdoor seating, Hall said.
The Everett taphouse opened its streetside seating Friday.
In the early days of Everett’s “streatery” program, the only business that isn’t based around food or drink is Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi.
Maki Perry opened her health studio in 2012, but the past year brought challenge after challenge between the lengthy disruption to Rucker Avenue for an infrastructure project and then COVID-19. Business is down to one-third of what it was, she’s worked with the building owner on partial lease payments and has gotten a personal loan through her bank, Perry said. That’s despite receiving some PPP funds.
“It’s been horrible,” she said. “I’m trying to figure out if this continues on how long I can survive.”
Moving outside could attract clients and make existing members more comfortable about joining sessions at the studio.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Perry said. “I’m not a restaurant, but could I teach tai chi outside … Our company has been reluctant to even bring five people into the studio because of the risk.”
She didn’t plan on joining the fad of “yoga bubbles,” plastic domes for people to stretch and center themselves in apart from the rest of the class.
Instead, parking spot tai chi should soon be available, Perry said. Classes are limited to five people under the state’s current guidelines, and she said it won’t be a copy of her usual sessions because she can’t control the temperature, lighting or noise. But tai chi is about centering yourself, so working on that among the chaos of Rucker and Hewitt avenues could be a good trial.
“Doing tai chi will you help you become healthier, happier and create inner peace,” Perry said.
That’s something most people could benefit from as they suffer from the “COVID blues.”
Accessibility concerns were considered, and 4 feet of passable sidewalk and curb ramps must remain open. Disabled parking spots can be used, depending on the nearby supply, but Cortes said the city’s trying to leave those open for vehicles.
Everett’s “streatery” program is set to last through Oct. 31, but it could be extended. Cortes said the city is looking into other options, such as offering covered space.
Ben Watanabe: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.