The WSLCB will be revisiting its barrier requirement for outdoor patios

The WSLCB will be revisiting its barrier requirement for outdoor patios.  Your initial comments are due by July 4, 2014.


The Washington State Liquor Control Board (the “WSLCB”) has entered into the initial stage of rule making to revise WAC 314-02-130 regarding outside service area requirements.

The rulemaking is a result of a petition for rulemaking submitted by the cities of Seattle and Spokane on May 6, 2014 and signed by the respective mayors of each city.  The mayors cite both public safety and business reasons for the changes.

WAC 314-02-130 requires all outdoor alcohol service areas be enclosed by a 42 inch high barrier.  Both Seattle and Spokane have active sidewalk café permitting programs in which businesses must apply for and obtain approval to provide table service for their guests on public sidewalks.  Many jurisdictions do not have such barrier requirements and have found ways to maintain a safe and responsible food and alcohol service on sidewalks, including nearby Oregon.

WAC 314-02-130 sets out the requirement as follows:

extending the location of alcohol service, such as a beer garden or patio/deck service (areas must be enclosed with a barrier a minimum of forty-two inches in height)

The cities have found the mandatory 42 inch barrier requirement for outdoor areas to undesirable under certain circumstances.  The cities have cited two primary concerns.

First, because there is limited walkable space on some sidewalks, the barrier requirement further encroaches on the remaining walkable space when a sidewalk permit is granted.  As a result, particularly when sidewalk permits are granted for narrow thoroughfares, pedestrian access and flow are unnecessarily impeded.

Second, the barrier requirements sometimes results in there simply not being enough room for an outdoor seating area and a pedestrian thoroughfare.  As a consequence, some businesses are having their application for a sidewalk café permit denied.  This can result in a material hardship to the business and reduce activity on the street.

The cities of Seattle and Spokane are requesting the WSLCB to allow local jurisdictions to decide when and where barriers are appropriate.  In short, the cities want the discretion to determine how best to license and permit these outdoor areas.  Sidewalk cafes are good for the public, cities and businesses.  They are thought to increase activity, decrease crime and result in more business and pedestrian traffic generally.  While nothing concrete has been proposed, the time has come for the relaxation (or elimination?) of the barrier requirement for outdoor areas.  Please take the time to comment in support of this concept.

This notice can be found here under Proposed Rules.