Expanding Outdoor Seating

06 Aug 2020

At its August 4 meeting, City Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that provides more flexibility to local restaurants and taverns who wish to add outdoor seating to their establishment. We hope the relaxed requirements will help local businesses continue to navigate new restrictions during Phase 2 of the Safe Start plan.

Businesses interested in expanding seating capacity via outdoor seating have two options, outlined below. If you are not sure which option is right for you, please contact Sarah Bluvas at sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov.

Temporary Use of ROW for Outdoor Dining

Businesses who wish to expand into public rights-of-way (ROW) must apply for a permit. Here are the steps for applying:

  1. Complete the ROW application: https://www.mercerisland.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/community_planning_amp_development/page/24451/commerce_on_public_property.pdf
  2. Develop your site plan (refer to page 3 of the ROW permit application for additional details)
  3. E-mail your completed application 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: 3 business days
  • Permit duration: Varies (refer to “Permit Process” section on page 2 of ROW permit application for additional 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: $347.63 - City Council approved using small business emergency grant funds to cover this permit fee cost, so local business will not be required to submit payment.


Converting Private Parking for Outdoor Dining

Businesses adjacent to private parking lots may now convert parking stalls for outdoor dining, provided that the business:

  • Is permitted to operate per the Safe Start phased reopening plan
  • Obtains approval from the landlord/property owner

If you are a business attached to a private parking lot, the City encourages you to work with your landlord as well as your neighbors to identify an outdoor seating 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).



The City of Mercer Island wants to support local businesses during this uncertain time. Contact Sarah Bluvas, EOC Small Business Liaison, at sarah.bluvas@mercerisland.gov to let us know how we can help.

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