Letter to the editor: How Edmonds streateries and street closure hurt restaurants not on Main Street

Editor:

Back in summer of 2020 when the restaurants in downtown Edmonds were devastated due to COVID-19 shutdown and the subsequent limitation of capacity, the Edmonds City Council approved the use of “streateries” for a period of 70 days. 

This was met with excitement for all restaurants who had the available street parking spaces and could erect a structure for outdoor seating. 

The 70 days got extended through the end of 2020 and into 2021, and now is being considered for indefinite extension. 

For those restaurants who valued having parking spaces for their customers more than a few extra seats outside, and those who already had leased patio space as part of their structure, the initial 70 days was no big deal. Extending to end of 2020 was still OK. However, as restaurants were being allowed to open fully at 100% capacity at end of June 2021, continuing to have streateries and closing Main Street to benefit them became a major issue for some of us who are within a walking or short drive distance to the circle and Main Street. We didn’t mind the city helping our fellow restaurants when they were down. But the city council and the Mayor helping only certain restaurants thrive is not the purpose of the council. 

Let me explain. 

A restaurant value (cost of purchasing a restaurant) is based on gross annual sales, Cost of goods, labor and overhead (cost per square foot and utilities and other expenses). 

By providing certain restaurants with a portion of the public street to add to their seating capacity, the City of Edmonds is actually helping them increase their sales without having to pay for the square footage they have been given. This increases the sales for the restaurant at a lower cost (because they don’t have to pay for the extra square footage), profits for the ownership, and a higher value for the resale of the restaurant itself. 

How it is impacting restaurants who try to compete fairly? 

By closing Main Street, anyone who wants to shop at, for example, a florist on Main, must park a couple of blocks away because the street is closed to cars. Once they get done shopping, they might just walk into a streatery rather than walk back to their car to drive a few blocks to the eating place they were planning on initially. 

City Hall just took away business from a restaurant that is not on Main, and gave it to the restaurant that is on Main. 

There are restaurants in Edmonds who already have a patio as part of their lease and are paying for every square foot of space they are conducting business in (Girardi’s, Harry’s, Epulo, Barkada, Bucatini, and many more). It is unfair of the city to set policies that benefit a few restaurants on Main to the detriment of many that are not on Main, and who are paying for their patio, and do not wish their customers to become captive on Main due to its closure to cars. 

To be fair, City Hall should consider two options: 

1. Reopen Main Street to car traffic at all times 

2. Shut down and remove all streateries and stop favoring a few restaurants on Main Street and nearby. The need for streateries is not there anymore when the capacity limit has been lifted. 

Alternatively, if the city wants to conduct itself in the way that favors certain restaurants by giving them a portion of the street as extra dining room real estate, the city should consider providing equal monetary compensation to other restaurants in the area, in the form of paying for their water/sewer, gas, electricity, licensing fees and other expenses, and in addition sending them a separate monthly check that equals the sales generated at the streateries (on public city street). 

This is what I think is the motto for the City of Edmonds at this time: 

“Open a restaurant in downtown Edmonds, where you can rent a hole in the wall for a restaurant, and the city will provide you with a dining room on the street for $140 a year.”

Fred Milani
Edmonds restaurant owner

    1. Couldn’t agree more. This in unfair and disruptive. Perhaps a class action suit against the City of Edmonds is required to rectify this injustice.

  1. Yesterday I’m driving my large pickup truck down Main going West when a large dump truck, too wide to pass, because of the streateries, heads up the hill going East. I stop just past the marked walkway mid block above 5th. to let the big truck pass and then realize I need to back up just a bit more to be sure the truck can pass me safely. In the process, I almost run over a guy I didn’t see in the cross walk area with the lights not flashing because he just darted across behind me. It’s just a matter of time until those shacks cause a small disaster. I got lucky this time.

  2. I don’t think your argument is very strong as you can easily argue the opposite. You could also make the argument that if someone is parked near a restaurant that is not on Main Street and then walks to Main, that they might be more inclined to dine at the restaurant that they parked next to upon returning to their car. This would therefore increase the number of patrons dining at non-main street restaurants that would otherwise frequent only main street restaurants. My family enjoys the safety and ease of walking on a more pedestrian friendly main street, especially with little ones in tow.

    1. Well said Kathryn, I agree and I enjoy the weekends with my family on main street. And I also enjoy the other restaurants and businesses within Edmonds that are not on Main.

      Restaurants and other businesses in Edmonds own the product that they offer and if that product is compelling people will come.

  3. Fred. My business is right off Main, and we have client-only parking. People take our spots and eat at Salt & Iron. I don’t blame them or the people taking my parking. Ultimately some businesses are politically connected. I’ve encouraged other businesses (like our boutiques) to set up in the parking spaces too. Why not? It’s more covid-safe and also gives more exposure to their products.

    1. Haha. Please…Apparently people have forgotten the rain and wind that will be here in a month…clothes no way. Brick brac in and out everyday. It won’t work. I want my tax dollars back…those streets belong to the citizens. Case closed.

  4. Long time Edmonds/Woodway resident here, and I think it is grossly unfair to allow these dining shacks, pavilions, huts, palaces, whatever your term of choice may be, to remain indefinitely on Main Street. Over the years my family has spent a lot of money shopping and dining in the heart of Edmonds, but we don’t go there much anymore to shop or dine, perhaps on a Monday or Tuesday when it is easy to find parking. There are winners and losers in every scenario, unfortunately, but things seem very lopsided in a community that continues to extend special privilege to certain business owners at the expense of other business owners with equal needs to generate income for themselves and their families. . Covid initially caused this situation to occur, and it is problematical that the variants keep us all wondering if indoor dining will ever be the same, but I still believe the businesses that have suffered should be helped in some way, although not to the extent outlined in Mr. Milani’s letter.

  5. Bottom line for me is that they are unsafe. If a vehicle struck one of these “streateries” it would be a disaster. Also they make it harder to see pedestrians. And frankly they look tacky. Dump ’em I say.

    1. One of my fears with this situation is: What happens when insurance companies figure out that the City failed to conduct the REQUIRED Public Hearing for Ordinance 4209? If a disaster takes place involving a streatery, will the liability exposure be shifted to Edmonds taxpayers because the City failed to follow state law?

  6. The following is found near the bottom of page 14 in the November 24, 2020 City Council Meeting Minutes:

    “Councilmember Buckshnis thanked Ms. Hope for answering her questions. With regard to legalities, she recalled interim ordinances were typically no longer than six months. She asked if this was technically vacating the right-of-way to the restaurateur and if so, could that result in a lawsuit. She felt it was a great concept but those were her issues. Ms. Hope answered other cities have done this and it seems to work. The concept is not to give up the spaces permanently, but to allow them for public use that favors the businesses. It is not a permanent donation to a private business and the business would also pay for a permit as well as the required equipment and be required to remove equipment at the City discretion. This is a pilot project proposed as an emergency ordinance that would sunset.”

    The Ordinance allowing Streateries in our rights-of-way during 2021 is Ordinance 4209. Ordinance 4209 clearly states the following within the body of the Ordinance:

    “Without an immediate adoption of this interim zoning ordinance, streateries would need to continue to operate under a special event permit, but that permit was supposed to expire on December 31, 2020.”

    All involved clearly knew that this interim zoning ordinance required a public hearing. The related 60-day period to do so expired February 13, 2021.

    Why wasn’t this added to a City government calendar or to the City Council’s Extended Agenda? Citizens were told in 2015 that steps had been taken to prevent the City from missing this 60-day public hearing requirement ever again after the 60-day requirement was missed on Ordinance 3992.

    I can find no evidence that the REQUIRED Public Hearing was ever held.

    I encourage City Government to inform all what the impact of failing to have the required Public Hearing is. Was Ordinance 4209 null and void once the City failed to hold the required Public Hearing within 60 days?

    1. City Hall continues to promotes mendacities to business owners, and the Tax Payers. City Hall works for you, the Taxpayers, you do not have to report to them.
      Time for people in City Hall who lie, who intentionally do not follow State law……. to be fired.
      Taxpayers do not pay very good money, for scoff laws to run the town as they personally think it should be run, not as the LAW demands it be run.

      Another failed project by the Economic Development Director. This position really needs to be evaluated if it has any benefit to the town, or is this Department just flushing good money money down the drain. Remember, this department promoted MFTE, which was known and proven to be false, all to help a developer save money. All the while it shifted the costs, and taxpayers shoulder the burden of MFTE.

      On another note: Promoting commercial real estate vacancies in Edmonds, is not the Cities responsibility.

      On that point, very sad that on the City website, City Hall uses taxpayers funds to promote commercial vacancy listing within buildings owned by private people, or corporations. Yet, if you are in Ed!, and refuse to pay the bill, the City pretends that your business is not in town, and banishes the business owner from any form of promotions.
      Hypocrisy at it’s finest.

  7. In addition to being totally unsafe, I’m not sure I want to enjoy fine dining right next to a never ending trail of exhaust pipes and fumes going by just inches away in some cases. That said, I suspect the shacks are now a permanent part of “the scene” that Edmonds has become over the years. Walkable Main St. will soon be sold as a needed permanent safety and climate change fighting tool to protect the Streateries while saving the planet. Might as well kick back and enjoy the show. Just try to avoid the negative impacts on oneself as much as possible.

    1. I agree. I wouldn’t want to eat in them either. Between the possibility of being hit by a car, I prefer to dine without exhaust fumes.

  8. Thank you Ken. These streateries are a serious distraction from the charm of Edmonds (Hooverville), are unsafe and take up precious parking space. They were good for emergency use but need to be gone.

  9. I don’t care for the streeteries, but I do enjoy the closed streets and ability to stroll with an open-air feel. Similar experience in Bothell where they’ve closed streets.

    Street parking is a deterrent regardless of the location or quality of food. Designated parking is a draw, whether reserved for a specific restaurant or a common area and then we walk to a closed down street.

    Not saying how to run your business or city as a non-resident, but did want to share a perspective from a non-resident that brings money into your town and restaurants regularly.

    Ditch the restaurant overflow into streets if you want, but keep the walking opportunity. It’s an uncommon experience. If you’re not located there, don’t worry, as good food and atmosphere take many different forms and, if yours is good, we will be visiting non-closed-street restaurants with frequency as well.

  10. Anyone with any common sense realizes these “streateries” are dangerous and an accident waiting to happen. The mayor and the city council president seemed to have little regard for following city ordinances. I presume that they think that such ordinances are not really enforceable so why care about them. I guess the only recourse for citizens is to get mad as hell and or vote them out at the next election.

  11. one could not disagree with this letter. the current policies by this mayor and council this is known as equity and social justice.

  12. Well said Fred Milani.
    Firstly, it is an eyesore on our once lovely downtown.
    Secondly, for elderly and handicapped people, it has added to the difficulty they have in parking close to the shops and restaurants they plan to visit. Also, since people have to park farther away, many elderly and handicapped CANNOT walk 2, 3, or 4 blocks to reach their destination. My parents are 89 and 87, and they are not able to walk more than a small block. This past week, they tried to park close to a downtown restaurant to eat lunch, with no success. After 3 spins around several blocks, they went home. I, personally, had foot surgery and for 4 weeks, I was only able to walk a very short distance. Several times, I had to ask a friend to take me and drop me in front of the shop, as I was not able to find parking within 2 blocks.
    Third, it is a disaster waiting to happen. Sooner or later, a car or truck is going to run into one of these ugly chicken coop looking structures and severely harm the people sitting in them, especially on Main St between 5th Ave. and 6th. It is a very narrow street to begin with.
    This is incredibly sad that the Mayor of this town has such limited insight into a matter that the majority of people dislike. It’s time to wake up Mr. Mayor and City Council members who think this is an OK situation.

  13. I am avoiding Main Street. I made my lunch reservations for 5 people in Lynnwood instead. I live in Mukilteo and used to enjoy visiting downtown Edmonds. It’s no longer pleasant with the streateries, constrained parking, and foment. I am an elder.

  14. Enough is enough! We need those streets for parking. Maybe the people right downtown are enjoying the freedom to walk, but how about us that have to drive. These restaurants should not have an unequal advantage over other businesses anymore.

  15. Salt and Iron has streatery on both sides of the sidewalk. It’s shocking how much of choke point it is during peek hours. There’s no way anyone there believes in their beloved COVID protocols with that congestion. A friend in a chair and I were trying to get through once and the light pole and dogs at the foot of the tables were nearly too much to navigate through. People actually need to take turns going east-west sometimes. I’ve tried emailing them about this, they have 150% capacity now, they need to take down one side of tables, and after no reply from them I’m half inclined to turn them over to the governor they voted for.

  16. As someone who doesn’t live in Edmonds but visits frequently, I avoid it on weekends because parking is such an issue. I agree with allowing for restaurants on main and Fifth to have spaces for outdoor eating, (We’re in an upsurge of the Delta Variant) but blocking off a large chunk of Main Street to set up tables is unnecessary and annoying. On Saturdays due to the Farmer’s Market, parking is already limited, but add to that the Main Street closure and Edmonds is inaccessible to people who drive in. I love visiting Edmonds, but if you want to keep the downtown corridor thriving, parking is an issue that needs to be addressed by the city council.

  17. Ordinance 4209 clearly states the following within the body of the Ordinance:

    “Without an immediate adoption of this interim zoning ordinance, streateries would need to continue to operate under a special event permit, but that permit was supposed to expire on December 31, 2020.”

    Ordinance 4210 clearly states the following within the body of the Ordinance:

    “Without an immediate adoption of this interim zoning ordinance, restaurants would have to go through a much longer permit process before being able to offer outdoor dining.”

    The State Law that addresses interim zoning ordinances is RCW 35A.63.220:

    Page 416 of the December 15, 2020 City Council Agenda Packet discussed the two proposed Ordinances that would become Ordinance 4209 and Ordinance 4210.

    Page 417 of the December 15, 2020 City Council Agenda Packet stated: “Both ordinances are subject to having a public hearing and further consideration by the City Council within the time required under state law.” As stated earlier, that State Law is RCW 35A.63.220.

    When City Council voted to pass Ordinance 4209 and Ordinance 4210 on December 15, 2020, Council did so under the following representation from City Staff: “Both ordinances are subject to having a public hearing and further consideration by the City Council within the time required under state law.” As stated earlier, that State Law is RCW 35A.63.220.

    The related 60-day period to do so expired February 13, 2021. Neither required public hearing was held.

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