The Poulsbo City Council approved extending its streatery program through 2024 at its Oct. 18 meeting, offering some businesses the chance to continue using outdoor public spaces for seating.
The vote passed 4-1, with David Musgrove dissenting. Ed Stern and Andrew Phillips were absent.
The streatery concept was first introduced during COVID, offering establishments the chance to provide outdoor seating for their customers. The concept has since become popular in Poulsbo with three businesses still using them with intentions to use them next year as well. Those businesses are Slippery Pig Brewery, State 42 Wines and Details Wine Bar.
“Most (businesses) that stopped doing it have significant space available to their patrons, and I don’t think they saw the benefit once we raised the price,” Public Works director Diane Lenius said at the Oct. 11 meeting.
During the pandemic, there were no or minimal costs to businesses. As coronavirus restrictions lifted, a market rate of fees was established for businesses to use public spaces. The current rates are $150/month for a parking stall and $60/month for sidewalk use. The city pays a lease excise tax of 12.84%. The fees will remain the same for 2024.
Program enhancements for next year include: updating temporary use application; safety/maintenance improvements (storm/traffic/paint); increasing design requirements to reinforce “Little Norway” moniker; and establishing renewal fee of $100.
Considerations of the streateries were also presented, such as impacts to parking, delivery and sidewalk space and Winter street maintenance impacts. It was also noted that the reconfiguration of Front Street in the future could provide planned space for eateries or public space in an improved design. Lenius gave a reminder that there are public seating areas around the city that are available to all and streatery permits are not required for those areas.
At the previous council meeting, Phillips asked when Front Street was going to be remodeled. “That whole place should be cleaned up and made a lot better. That’s the permanent solution. This is just a Band-Aid.”
Councilmember Gary McVey said while the pandemic may be over, people are still getting COVID, and it would be nice to continue having outdoor seating at some of these establishments. “I think there’s a lot of people that still rely on these outdoor spaces for public safety purposes,” he said at the previous council meeting. “I am supporting this once again.”
Councilmember Britt Livdahl also supported extending the streateries another year. “The bottom line is we’ve learned something about our community, and they want this, and they use it,” she said at the Oct. 11 meeting. “I think people’s desires to socialize outside is not going to change. Given that we have the parking study results and that whole conversation coming, I can understand wanting to revisit it in a year.”
Musgrove voiced concerns about it being a temporary fix and pointed out that other businesses that don’t utilize them could be at a disadvantage.
“It has a negative impact on the remainder of the businesses while a positive impact on some businesses,” he said at the previous meeting. “It violates those (equity) principles. I love the concept but we must find an equitable way to get it done. Just extending the program as is does not.”
Livdahl disagreed saying she hasn’t received any emails advocating for the streateries to be removed—only ones that want them to be kept. “I guess I just don’t see that our mandate is to make everything equitable because if that was the case, why do we have people that have nowhere to live? That’s not equitable. There’s a lot of things that are not equitable. I think this group in particular, we do our very best to try and solve as many of those things as possible. I think we’re doing the best that we can based on what our community has told us they want.”
McVey mentioned that many people who use the streateries end up visiting and buying things from other businesses downtown. “In regard to the equity issue, I don’t see too many losers here.”
Councilmember Connie Lord said she wanted to approve extending the streateries only if it was limited to the three businesses that are using them as she didn’t want any more public space taken up downtown. The rest of the council came to a compromise that if any other businesses want to use the streatery program in 2024 they will have to get council approval.