When the sun is out, many customers enjoy eating in outdoor seating areas.
But in Sumner, don’t expect that meal to come with a labeled alcoholic beverage.
Per current regulations, restaurants in Sumner are limited in what they can serve when customers want to sit outside. Alcoholic beverages must be served in unmarked containers, and there are both limits on size and outdoor sales for taverns, micro-breweries, brewpubs and bars.
For restaurants such as Trackside Pizza on Main Street, the regulations can lead to some disappointed customers.
“During our warmer weather, some customers will leave because they can not have beer with their pizza outside and choose to go elsewhere,” wrote Shaun Brobak, the restaurant’s owner, in an email to the city.
During our warmer weather, some customers will leave because they can not have beer with their pizza outside and choose to go elsewhere.
Shaun Brobak, owner of Trackside Pizza in Sumner
The regulations were created as a result of a tavern downtown that was known for frequent police calls and problems, according to a staff report. The tavern has since closed.
But an amendment to Sumner’s zoning code seeks to change those regulations, specifically by removing limits on outdoor sales, size limits and the requirement that alcohol be served in unmarked containers.
The changes have been on the minds of both city staff and business owners for a while, said Community Development director Ryan Windish.
“Over the last year we’ve been talking about making changes to the outdoor seating/serving regulations to make them more flexible and accommodating,” he wrote in an email. “Mainly, removing the ‘unmarked container’ requirement.”
Over the last year we’ve been talking about making changes to the outdoor seating/serving regulations to make them more flexible and accommodating. Mainly, removing the ‘unmarked container’ requirement.
Ryan Windish, Sumner community development director
In the new amendment, businesses would be able to set up temporary or permanent outdoor eating areas that serve alcohol as long as businesses are “in compliance with all state regulations.”
Outdoor eating on sidewalks in Sumner is already permitted, but the city is looking into a possible pilot program for parklets — sidewalk extensions that allow for amenities such as benches or tables.
Issues of sidewalk accessibility and problematic behavior were brought up after the amendment was introduced to the Sumner Planning Commission on Jan 4.
Some Planning Commission board members were concerned with walkability of sidewalks if more businesses set up outdoor eating areas. Under code, there needs to be three feet of walkable clearance. Sidewalks along Main Street are about 10 feet wide.
“I don’t see the downtown businesses that would be doing this leaving their belongings out in a disorderly manner,” Senior Planner Eric Mendenhall said.
The city is less concerned about unruly outdoor behavior as well.
“We now have better regulations and policies in place to handle problematic businesses,” city staff said in a report. “More importantly, the proposed amendment could promote outdoor events and entertainment in the downtown area as well as other commercial nodes in the town.”
The Planning Commission approved the amendment 7-0.
I’m excited. I think it’ll add to the vibrancy of downtown... I think it adds character.
Amanda Robbert, member of Sumner Planning Commission
“I’m excited. I think it’ll add to the vibrancy of downtown,” Planning Commission member Amanda Robbert said at the meeting. “I think it adds character.”
“The businesses that we have in town, we want to help them grow,” Windish said.
The amendment will be proposed to City Council at the end of January or early February.