Two Options for Expanding Outdoor Dining Space

The City is again enabling local eating & drinking establishments to use public Right-of-Way or private parking to expand their outdoor dining. Are you a café, restaurant, tavern, or other food/beverage business interested in creating more outdoor space? Keep reading to learn more about each option and see which one is right for you!




Temporary Use of ROW for Outdoor Dining

Businesses who wish to expand into public Right-of-Way (ROW) parking need a temporary use permit. Here are the steps for applying:

  1. Complete the temporary-use application: https://bit.ly/ROWdining
  2. Develop your site plan (refer to page 4 of the permit application for additional details)
  3. E-mail your completed application and site plan to to epermittech@mercerisland.gov (please also copy patrick.yamashita@mercerisland.gov and sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov). Reference "Temporary use of ROW for Outdoor Dining" in the e-mail subject line.

Additional information related to this option:

  • Estimated time of review/approval: 5 business days
  • Permit duration: Varies (Refer to the “Permit Process” section on page 3 of the permit application for details)
  • Before a permit can be approved, businesses must submit a Certificate of Insurance naming the City as an additional assured. If you have questions about this requirement, please contact Sarah Bluvas at sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov.
  • Permit cost: $213 (plus hourly rate if estimated review/inspection exceed 1 hour) - If cost is a barrier for your business, contact Sarah Bluvas to find a solution.

Converting Private Parking for Outdoor Dining

Businesses with private parking lots may use parking spaces for outdoor dining, provided that the business:

  • Is permitted to operate per the current Healthy Washington phase guidelines
  • Obtains approval from the landlord/property owner

If you are a business with a private parking lot, we encourage you to work with your landlord as well as your neighbors to identify an outdoor dining solution that works for everyone. Converting private parking for outdoor dining does not require a permit at this time.

Using Tents in Your New Outdoor Seating Area

If you plan to use a tent or canopy in your new outdoor seating area, please limit your tent size to 400 square feet. Any tents exceeding this size are subject to an operation permit and review by the City’s Fire Marshal (per Chapter 31 of the International Fire Code).

Technical & Marketing Assistance to Support Your Outdoor Dining Experience

In addition to providing these opportunities, the City also applied for grant funding through the Port of Seattle to support your outdoor dining projects. We are still awaiting approval for the grant award, but we anticipate that we will have resources available to guide you in setting up your outdoor space and promoting it to the community. Stay tuned for more details about this!


The City of Mercer Island wants to support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact Sarah Bluvas, Economic Development Coordinator, at sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov to let us know how we can help.

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