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.”
Edmonds restaurant owner