SEQUIM — Restaurants in downtown Sequim have been adding canopy tents to offer customers new options during the COVID-19 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 it went 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 so 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; they can only enforce 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 currently use tents, 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.
The expansion into tents mirrors that in Port Townsend.
In Port Angeles, the city has eased restrictions on expanding into outdoor areas, but Marc Abshire, director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, knows of no businesses that are using tents.
In previous years, a request for outdoor dining tents was rare in Sequim, except for special event permits.
Thompson said the tent has been used often every day, despite seating that is limited to three tables of four customers each.
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 sequimwa.gov/453/Find-Forms-or-Applications, or contact the Department of Community Development at [email protected] or 360-683-4908.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].