Paris cafe street

This is safer, and more romantic, anyway.

Let’s start with the bad news: Governor Jay Inslee said today that more restrictions are coming to stop the spread of Covid-19, most notably at restaurants. Starting next Thursday, only members of the same household can share a table indoors (no word on how this will actually be enforced). Indoor bar service will also close, and general alcohol sales must stop at 10pm. Other rollbacks relevant to Seattle's Phase 2 status include limiting fitness centers to five indoor customers at a time and forbidding receptions at funerals and weddings.

The new rules shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, given the state’s uptick in coronavirus cases, and they could have been stricter—California recently banned indoor dining. But Seattle singles and newcomers may feel a bit left out in the cold (or rain) by this latest incarnation of the Freeze.

The good news? Outdoor dining is still open to all, and it may be on the verge of expanding. Yesterday, the mayor’s office announced that restaurants and other businesses can pursue free street closure permits, paving the way for the European “cafe streets” that many Seattleites have sought since learning that the new coronavirus is, generally speaking, more difficult to contract outdoors. While rain and other forms of inclement weather will pose challenges down the road, Gordon Padelford, the executive director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, is optimistic that awnings, umbrellas, and other creative solutions Scandinavians use year-round can be deployed here too. "We're excited," says Padelford.

The city had already allowed businesses to expand their operations to sidewalks and curb spaces (92 have applied for the free permits, per the release). But this new license, available for up to six months, has the potential to bump up capacities significantly more.

Well, hopefully. As of this writing, the Seattle Department of Transportation hasn't yet released the specifics of how to apply for the permit, which will be available here. Thus far, we know that applicants:

  • Must “notify and demonstrate support from neighboring businesses and residents of proposed street closures.”
  • Are on the hook for expenses pertaining to the street closure, such as barricades and tables.
  • Adhere to all state and local public health guidelines.

There's a lot of room for interpretation there, and building consensus on an entire city block will be a challenge. But at least we know romantics will be behind it.

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