Mayor allows businesses to expand onto sidewalks, with unclear results

Businesses on Main, Grand will likely see most positive effects of this emergency declaration, city official says



Marie Dymkoski, executive director at the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, said businesses that want to expand onto sidewalks and parking lots have to apply through the Pullman Planning Commission.

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

Local businesses can apply to extend outdoor seating onto public sidewalks and private parking lots. Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson issued the emergency declaration after the effects of the recent coronavirus spike threatened the longevity of restaurants and bars in Pullman. 

“This is not to circumvent any kind of governor’s orders. This is basically to work within those orders,” Johnson said during the Sept. 1 virtual city council meeting.

Pullman reduced some restrictions so businesses could use private parking lots and public right-of-ways, such as sidewalks, for their operations, he said.

Marie Dymkoski, executive director at the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, said a business must apply through the Pullman Planning Commission by presenting a conceptual drawing of the outdoor seating as well as proof of insurance. The public space must still follow Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, she said.

“It’s not like you just get to go out and put seats in public areas, but the mayor’s declaration has expedited that process,” Dymkoski said.  

Since the declaration went into effect on Sept. 2, some business managers and owners said they have seen minimal effects on business. 

A spokesperson at Paradise Creek Brewery’s Main Street location said the restaurant did not see any impact because it had distanced seating arrangements outdoors before the declaration. 

Jaime Boumont, general manager at Pizza Perfection, said the pizza parlor was already utilizing the area before the declaration. 

“It’s not really impacting us at all,” Boumont said. 

A spokesperson from The Coug said because of the lack of private parking lots and public sidewalk areas on College Hill, the declaration did not apply to their business.

Dymkoski said businesses on Grand Street saw positive effects almost immediately following the declaration. The CrossFit gym on Grand has its clients exercising under a designated covered area in its parking lot, and O-Ramen was able to bring its seating onto the main front area, she said. 

Other businesses with large parking lots, such as Zeppoz, also took advantage of the declaration by leasing nearly the entire parking area, Dymkoski said. Pauly’s Bar & Grill and The Land both applied for the lease and have been approved to expand, Dymkoski said. 

This declaration differs from the parklet proposal considered during the June 9 city council virtual meeting, Dymkoski said. The concern with implementing publicly-owned outlets on Main Street was the question of who would sanitize the tables once people had finished eating, she said. 

“This [lease] is in the hands of the business owners, so they are taking on the liability,” Dymkoski said. 

Businesses pay a fee similar to a regular housing lease agreement, Dymkoski said. The money from this fee will not be a large revenue source for the city, but the declaration itself will help businesses stay afloat in the short-term, she said. 

Pullman saw several businesses close because of the influx of new positive COVID-19 cases in the area. 

Don’s Midway Grocery remains shut after its closure on Aug. 25, and beloved college-student hub Stubblefields also permanently closed its doors on Aug. 29. Cafe Moro shuttered on Aug. 20, and the Daily Grind also permanently closed in May, though it was replaced with Neill’s Coffee and Ice Cream.

“This is a really good step forward in helping our businesses be compliant with the governor’s orders and keep the support coming from our community,” Dymkoski said.