If you’ve driven in downtown Sequim, it’s likely you’ve seen canopy tents at eateries seeking to offer customers new options during the pandemic.
At Tedesco’s Italian Fresh, 210 W. Washington St., co-owner Christina Thompson said the restaurant’s tent has worked well for customers since going up in late summer.
“I’m really surprised people are willing to sit down outside in the cold (now),” she said. “I think people want to use (tents) because it’s a change of scenery.”
In recent weeks, the City of Sequim announced a program for outdoor dining spaces for restaurants that complies with city building codes and Gov. Jay Inslee’s updated guidelines for mitigating COVID-19.
Barry Berezowsky, director of Sequim’s Department of Community Development, said the city is providing a way for businesses to have tents in a parking strip right-of-way without a permit.
City staff can do this under an emergency order for the “Open Streets & Special Events Initiative” to waive certain code requirements to help local businesses.
Berezowsky said the city provides business owners a packet of information that requires a plat plan for the tent(s). Businesses must also receive permission from property owners (if applicable) on private property, and follow fire code requirements and safety protocols, such as using reflective devices and label steps.
Under state guidelines, tents must have unobstructed entry, exit and ventilation from at least two sides.
“Some (cities) could require a building code permit but these (tents) are clearly temporarily,” Berezowsky said. “Being with state requirements, patrons who do choose to dine outside are doing so in a safe manner.”
One state requirement is that table size is limited to five people.
When a tent is ready for use, Berezowsky said city staffers ask the business contact them for an inspection to make sure it complies with the governor’s order.
He said city staff do not have authority to enforce those guidelines, only temporary structures through the zoning code.
“If they’re not adhering to (state guidelines) then we’ll seek voluntary compliance … We hope people will adhere to the state,” Berezowsky said.
Five downtown businesses use tents now, including Tedesco’s, Salty Girls, Peninsula Taproom, Sunshine Café and Jose’s Famous Salsa.
Berezowsky said Jose’s owners have inquired about a tent in front of their business along Washington Street similar to Sunshine Café.
In previous years, a request for outdoor dining tents was rare, except for special event permits.
Thompson said their tent has been used often everyday, despite seating limited to three tables of four customers. Online reservations aren’t available, but people can reserve a space by calling 360-504-3821.
When indoor seating was allowed in the summer at a limited capacity, Thompson said they made good use of their nine available tables. Tedesco’s also added a delivery truck during the summer in response to the pandemic to offer free delivery within a seven mile radius.
Earlier this year, city staff added 10-minute parking curbside pickup spots focused between Tedesco’s and Jose’s.
For more information about the “Temporary Outdoor Dining Structure” application, visit www.sequimwa.gov/453/Find-Forms-or-Applications or contact the Department of Community Development at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-683-4908.