EDMONDS – String lights lit up the restaurant “streets” along Main Street early Wednesday morning.
Taking into account the public’s advice, members of Edmonds City Council agreed on Tuesday to change their original decision on streaters, the outdoor dining structures that occupy the public right-of-way, typically parking spaces.
Edmonds City Council members last month voted to extend the city’s streets program until the end of April, while imposing what Mayor Mike Nelson considered the highest permit fees in the country . Council member Will Chen argued that the tariff was justified for the use of parking spaces by restaurants and that the money should be used to rent private parking spaces.
For many restaurateurs, the streets were a godsend. But some couldn’t afford to keep theirs for $ 4,000. Business owners had until the end of 2021 to find the money.
Edmonds City Council members voted 5-2 on Tuesday to halve the $ 4,000 fee, giving restaurant owners the option of keeping their restaurants until the end of April for $ 500 a month.
“I wish it didn’t take all the way until the fourth meeting to do this,” Shubert Ho, executive chef and owner of Feedme Hospitality & Restaurant Group, in Edmonds told the Daily Herald. “And put all of us restaurateurs in a precarious political position.”
Joan Wan, owner of restaurant Claire’s, told the Herald on Wednesday that she decided to close her restaurant after the council’s initial decision. She said the high fees for a few more months of use didn’t make sense for her business.
Parking continued to be the main point of contention on Tuesday, as council members spent two hours debating the purpose of the permit fees.
Board member Kristiana Johnson called the charge “rent” for the use of parking spaces by restaurants.
However, Director of Development Services Susan McLaughlin said the city has the option of renting private parking spaces under the original street permit fee of $ 110.
Council members Laura Johnson and Susan Paine criticized those who suggested that high parking fees were needed to offset the value of parking spaces.
“We interfere with the ability of companies to have predictable and consistent business practices,” Paine said. “… What we also do is play with people’s jobs. ”
Laura Johnson reiterated the goal of the original ordinance allowing alfresco dining in the public right of way: to protect economic and public health. She also said, while holding a line graph, that there has been a 400% increase in the transmission of COVID-19 in the county since the council began considering expanding the streaters program in the county. city in the fall.
Ahead of the vote, residents continued to advocate for city council members to consider the electorate when reconsidering their decision regarding streets.
“We have had several polls that show the streets are popular,” said Brad Bernatek, a resident of Edmonds. “… As an elected official you can vote however you want – that’s what we want you to do – but I encourage you to consider the poll. ”
Paine noted that about 70% of comments from council members received from the public were in favor of keeping the streets as they are.
The restaurants’ first payment for the $ 2,000 is due January 15th. For streets that occupy only one parking space, the charge is $ 1,000, or $ 250 per month.
“I’m glad they took pity on us,” Ho said. “Forward.”