The Edmonds City Council on Monday moved to implement a $4,000 fee on restaurants that want to keep or set up outdoor cafes on public streets and sidewalks.
The council last week had voted to impose the permit fee on restaurants for the pandemic-era street cafes, which the council dubbed “streateries,” while allowing them to continue to operate through the end of May.
Then, after pushback from local restaurateurs and the Washington Hospitality Association, an industry lobbyist, the council called a special meeting to cut the fee back to $2,000. But that legislation failed Monday night after two council members didn’t show up for the meeting, a third walked out as it was beginning and a fourth said he was not comfortable with three members of the seven-member council absent.
“The whole point of the streateries was to save restaurants and protect public health, so it doesn’t make sense to make it harder or impossible for some to continue,” said Councilmember Laura Johnson, who supported cutting the fee.
But it was to no avail.
Councilmember Will Chen, who had proposed the $2,000 compromise fee and worked to set up the special meeting, said he wasn’t comfortable proceeding because three other council members were absent.
Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson were absent and Councilmember Vivian Olson walked out of the meeting saying she thought it may have been improperly called.
Jeff Taraday, the city attorney, said that the meeting was legally called, in his view.
Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas accused her three absent colleagues of boycotting the meeting.
Edmonds allowed outdoor dining in parking spaces beginning in August 2020 under a special-event permit. In December 2020, it incorporated street cafes into the city code, with a sunset date of Dec. 31, 2021.
Restaurant owners say the outdoor dining and parking spaces have been an important lifeline during the last year, allowing eateries to serve diners eager to go out for a meal while remaining outside, where the coronavirus is less likely to be transmitted.
There are 17 restaurants with street cafes under the new program, which have given a new energy to Edmonds’ bustling Main Street, but also driven concerns about the loss of a few dozen parking spaces. The fees paid by the restaurants will be used to rent parking spaces that will be made available to the public, the legislation says.
Seattle, earlier this year, waived longstanding fees for restaurants setting up awnings, tables, chairs and outdoor dining on sidewalks and in curbside parking spaces. Seattle’s program also runs through May 2022.