The day before a city council public hearing on whether to extend permitting for downtown Edmonds’ temporary outdoor eating structures, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson said he supports continuing the streateries ordinance through the first six months of 2022.
“I believe the best way to support the economic vitality of our entire downtown is to continue streateries during the pandemic,” Nelson said in a city-issued press release Monday.
The mayor cited the results of a recent city survey on the outdoor dining structures, which drew responses from more than 4,100 people. The survey results, the mayor said, indicate that “the majority of the public will likely patronize downtown restaurants less if the streateries are removed. And from the sales tax data, we know the vast majority of downtown retail businesses have profited while streateries have been here.
“I would hate to see our downtown businesses suffer and the public be less well served because the streateries are taken away,” Nelson said.
In its press release, the city pointed to two survey results in particular.
First, when survey respondents were asked how their eating and drinking habits would change if streateries were no longer available, 48.44% said they would “likely continue to visit downtown restaurants and cafés just as frequently, choosing to eat indoors”; 26.55% said they were likely to visit downtown restaurants less frequently “as I am less comfortable eating indoors”; and 25.01% said they would “likely choose to visit restaurants and cafés elsewhere that continue to have outdoor dining options.”
Second, a majority of those surveyed — 55.87% — indicated that outdoor dining in streateries enhances downtown, while 6.01% said it makes no difference and 38.12% said that it detracts from downtown.
The city also said it has conducted research into retail sales in downtown Edmonds to get an idea of how retailers have been faring recently — in particular, comparing summer retail sales in 2021 to prepandemic levels in 2019. Total retail sales for June, July and August 2021 among all downtown retailers were at 110% of prepandemic 2019 sales for the same months. This shows that the streateries have not hurt the retailers but may have actually helped them, the city said.
“For these reasons, I support extending the streateries ordinance for the first six months of 2022,” Nelson said. “The pandemic is not over, the public has shown its preference for keeping streateries, and the data show that downtown businesses are doing well with streateries present. Now is not the time to pull the plug on streateries.”
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