Will Washington State Become a Friendlier Place for Small Food Entrepreneurs?
Last month, Seattle’s city council voted to lift a host of restrictions on many home businesses, thanks to the efforts of one small local cidery and its supporters.
As I detailed in a February column, after one neighbor complained repeatedly to the city about Yonder Bar, the city forced the “bar”—a converted home garage walkup window where consumers may only purchase cider to drink at home, rather than a place where people drink alcohol beverages—to close temporarily.
As I also explained in the column, the city, which had approved and licensed Yonder Bar prior to its opening, claimed, in closing down the bar, that Yonder Bar was operating illegally in a residential area, didn’t have adequate off-street parking, used signage to indicate to consumers that it’s a business—and not, say, an unmarked garage full of old tires or broken croquet mallets—and could operate only by appointment.
That might have been the end of the story. But thousands of Yonder Bar’s neighbors and at least a couple city councilors rallied behind the takeaway-only bar. Those city councilors introduced a bill that would not just allow Yonder to reopen—but also allow other, similar home-based businesses to operate without fear of being shuttered by the city.
City Council members Dan Strauss and Lorena Gonzalez introduced the bill, dubbed Bringing Business Home, in order to “provide additional support and a means towards economic recovery for small businesses adversely affected by current land use codes during the pandemic.”
The bill was intended to lift some of the most onerous home-business requirements, including the appointment-only rule, signage ban, cap on employees, and traffic restrictions.
In my column on Yonder Bar, I cited one local Twitter account that predicted Yonder Bar’s persistent nemesis could end “up getting a citywide zoning change that will legalize stuff like Yonder on every lot.”
“This bill removes one of the biggest hurdles for small businesses—commercial rent—and gives them the opportunity to follow their dreams,” Yonder Bar owner Caitlin Bramm told me this week. “We started Yonder Bar in our garage, and it allowed us to safely and confidently grow while providing valuable cash flow for our business. We are thrilled to have it back open, and can’t wait to see what opportunities this bill opens up for others.”
“Our land use code cannot be the barrier to vibrant neighb
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