Sidewalk Merchandise Displays

Permit Counter Temporary Closures

To protect the health and safety of our staff and customers, and to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19, we closed our public-facing customer service counters on Monday, March 16, 2020. Our counters remain closed until further notice. This includes both the Street Use and the Traffic and Parking permit counters at the Seattle Municipal Tower on floors 23 and 37. We are still processing permit applications.

You can submit applications for all permit types online through the Seattle Services Portal.

Our staff will be available to provide application coaching and assist with issuing permits by phone or e-mail.

Proposed Changes: Merchandise Display (July 2022 DRAFT)

Merchandise Display opportunities in public right-of-way are a longstanding part of our Business Enhancement Program. Prior to the temporary Safe Start Program, merchandise displays that were not part of a temporary permitted event, such as a neighborhood sidewalk sale, required a long-term permit. Permits were only issued to business or property owners for sidewalk displays set up adjacent to their storefronts in either the frontage zone (next to building) or the furniture zone (near the curb). We required that all displays be removed from right-of-way during all hours that the business was closed.

What we’re proposing for 2023

Our proposal greatly expands opportunities for retail businesses by removing the permit requirement for typical merchandise displays within the frontage zone of the retail business (the frontage zone is the sidewalk area immediately adjacent to the building face).

Retail businesses wishing to place a merchandise display in the furniture zone adjacent to their business (the sidewalk area near the curb), or to erect a frontage zone (next to building) display that does not meet established standards under the permit-free option, will still be required to obtain a permit. Permit options for these displays will include a long-term, annually renewable permit and a single season (April through October) permit. A new seasonal permit may be applied for each year.

We will not be offering a permit option for long-term or seasonal curbspace merchandise displays. In comparing the historically low demand for merchandise displays against the higher demand for competing curbspace uses, we made the decision to disallow curbspace merchandise displays, which had been allowed during the Temporary Safe Start Program. Exceptions may be made when displays are part of a permitted street closure under a Street and Sidewalk Activity or another temporary event permit.

What you need to know

We are proposing changes to make it easier for businesses to display their retail merchandise along the sidewalk. These include no-permit options for some retail displays along the building’s frontage, as well as permit options for displays in the area between the sidewalk and street (the furniture zone)

No-Permit Frontage Zone (building side) Option

As long as a business can follow our proposed standards, we do not need to be contacted prior to setting up a compliant frontage zone display. Our staff is ready to assist interested businesses if help is needed to interpret the guidelines. Our inspectors regularly visit business districts and respond to community complaints. Any businesses with installations confirmed as non-compliant with established standards will be contacted first for education and coaching, and later as needed for enforcement purposes.

The standards will ensure an unobstructed pedestrian path; appropriate clearance from curb ramps, alleys, driveways, utilities, and street fixtures; compliance with Historic District requirements where applicable; and use of diverters for cane detectability, among other details. These displays may only include the same goods offered for sale by the adjacent business and must be removed from the public place whenever the business is closed.

Long-Term, Annually Renewable Permits and Seasonal (April through October) Permits

Key Permit Details

Updated detailed requirements for clearances, setbacks, dimensions, etc., will be available on our permit webpages prior to the conclusion of the Temporary Safe Start Program. Provided below are some key requirements from our current proposal.

  • Display must include diverters for cane detectability
  • Display must be stored on private property whenever business is closed (return to pre-pandemic standard)
  • No sales register or station may be included in the display set-up
  • Business owners are responsible for maintaining a clean site, and for management of installation features and customer queues to ensure clear pedestrian paths and building entrances and exits at all times.

Application Timeline and Requirements

We will provide more details on the application submittal timeframe in the upcoming months. Businesses seeking continuous use of a sidewalk display currently permitted under a temporary Safe Start permit should expect to apply in late Fall/early Winter 2022. Businesses interested in a 2023 Seasonal permit should expect to apply in early 2023. (Note: Businesses with a curbspace display permitted under a temporary Safe Start Permit will need to remove their display by the program end date, as curbspace displays will no longer be allowed.)

Public Comment Period

Public Notice followed by a 2-week public comment period is required for permitted merchandise display options prior to permit issuance.

Program Costs and Permit Fees

Fees for sidewalk merchandise displays in the furniture zone (next to curb) and in the frontage zone (next to building) are delineated by type below.

Frontage zone displays that meet our established guidelines

  • No permit is required, so no fees are charged!

Long-term, annually renewing merchandise display permit

  • Issuance fee (one-time)
    • $1,220
    • Hourly-rate review fees for secondary review by SDOT and other departmental subject matter experts may be charged when required (Current 2022 hourly rate is $305)
  • Renewal fee (annually after 1st year)
    • $588

Seasonal display permit (April through October)

  • Note: This permit must be applied for each year
  • Issuance fee (one-time for each year’s application)
    • $500
    • Hourly-rate review fees for secondary review by SDOT and other City Department subject matter experts may be charged when required (Current 2022 hourly rate is $305)

We are currently accepting feedback on the draft of our proposed Director's Rule which you can find on our Director's Rules and Ordinances page. If you would like to provide feedback please email us at publicspace@seattle.gov by Monday, August 15, 2022.

How do I get a permit for displaying merchandise on the sidewalk?

This permit allows business owners to display merchandise on the sidewalk in front of their building.

You can apply for this permit on the Seattle Services Portal. Use the button on the right to sign in!

Under "Create New" select "Permits-Street Use" and navigate to and select the "Long Term Use" and "Merchandise Display" record type. Follow this guide for more detailed instructions.

Displays in the furniture zone, or displays with dimensions wider than the store front, may be permitted as long as an adequate pedestrian zone is maintained. A pedestrian zone wider than 5' may be required depending on the terms of the merchandise display.

Required documents: