Spokane fast tracks permit process for restaurants, retailers looking to expand under new guidelines

SPOKANE, Wash. — People in Spokane can once again dine in at some of their favorite restaurants. 

Still, even with the approval to advance to phase 2, not all places are reopening for dine-in services. That’s because, at half capacity, it still might not be worth it. 

The work has just begun for restaurants that are reopening. 

“It’s the process that has to happen for us to get open and keep everyone safe and operate,” said Marshall Powell at Elk Public House. 

New state rules say tables must be six feet apart with a maximum of five seats. 

At Elk Public House, caution tape prevents people from sitting where they shouldn’t, and dividers are up. 

“Our capacity was just over 100 before and it’s right about 50 now, and that’s just the inside capacity,” said Powell. He was able to get an expanded service permit this weekend and has another patio area just for the weekend.

Powell said he hasn’t been able to open all his restaurants. 

“El Que is so small, we can’t really, there’s not  – we haven’t even looked at that yet, it won’t be easy to open that place up without extensive outside seating,” said Powell. 

That’s where the Spokane City Council comes in. This week, the council members voted to modify requirements for parklets and streateries permits. 

This will allow restaurants and retailers to expand their space onto the sidewalk, street, or parking space adjacent to their property. 

RELATED: Spokane City Council votes to modify requirements for ‘streateries’ in effort to help restaurants

City Council Member Michael Cathcart said they would allow streets to be closed down in some instances. Council members would have to look at that application really close to see what could be done to help business owners.

“There are cases where we are looking to do that just to help those restaurants and retailers be able to open and stay open, and it could be a pretty neat thing to see in downtown and maybe even some of our neighborhoods,” said  Cathcart. 

Cathcart says the fee to apply for a streateries permit will be waived. They’re also working to expedite the process and get restaurants seating people as quickly as possible. 

“The goal is to get thing moving really quickly because you know we’re in phase two now and those restaurants need to open and get business and many of these restaurants opening at a lower capacity, with just the lower margins, they just cannot open with that,” said Cathcart. 

For a place like Soulful Soups, which is much smaller than Elk Public House, the additional outside seating would be helpful. 

Right now, because of social distancing guidelines, the restaurant can only fit three tables inside. 

“As you can see my space is just very narrow,” said Soulful Soups owner Lauren D’Arienzo. “That’s just not enough for a restaurant that’s supposed to seat 49.” 

Tables are supposed to be spaced six feet apart from each other. D’Arienzo said she would only be able to have up to 12 people at most dine-in at one time.

“I have a take out system that works in here, so I constantly have people coming in and walking in the center area,” she explained. “So, there’s no way to keep people six feet apart right here. It just doesn’t make sense.”

D’Arienzo and Powell both say they will be applying for the Streateries permits. 

It’s the next step on the Path 4Ward. 

“I just think it’ll be fun and I’d love the energy that it’d bring to Howard Street, in particular,” said D’Arienzo. 

Soulful Soups hopes to open for dine-in services sometime in June. 

READ: Spokane County approved to advance to phase 2 of reopening plan

RELATED: Customers enjoy dine-in services as Idaho transitions to Phase 2