Seattle in summer is a sight to behold. A delicious adult beverage might be the best thing to be holding during that beholding—in fact it’s that the glimmer of hope that kept us going through that long, dismal winter. Unfortunately, Seattle’s outdoor-consumption laws still have a way to go before responsible adults can indulge without undue difficulty.
Let’s talk briefly about what the city does fairly well. Banquet permits are a snap, requiring little more than a few minutes on the computer and $11. Outdoor-seating laws have been relaxed a bit, allowing for more sidewalk tables and other structures that let us enjoy the open air. Plus, I’ve no doubt we’ll see even more elevated or rooftop bars as the downtown core continues to grow. Many pre-eminent outdoor venues are doing a better job than ever of making quality and varied drink options available as well; Safeco Field still reigns supreme, with a truly awesome array of local beers, but even CenturyLink and our area’s other big concert venues are catching up.
That said, open containers aren’t allowed in any public space, and it’s still onerous for a restaurant or bar to get a permit to serve outside, requiring some sort of physical barrier between the vulnerable public and dangerous alcohol. Given Seattle’s ambitions toward global-city status, such provincial thinking just seems antiquated. New York and Paris let people drink pretty much wherever they can set down a chair, and neither city has yet collapsed into a drunken morass.
In fact, it’s hard for me to understand why the city, and even the state, have been so slow to modernize public-drinking laws for the 21st century. Sure, there are a few legitimate safety and sanitation concerns; I’m not advocating for New Orleans- or Las Vegas-style anarchy out there, merely a bit more freedom. Maybe some semi-permanent beer gardens or drinking areas in certain public parks? I’d probably take my dog for long walks at Discovery Park more often if I could crack open a beer and take in the incredible views without worrying about getting a ticket. It’s undoubtedly a golden age for drinking in Seattle in almost every way—which almost makes these smallish concerns all the more bothersome, because we’re so close to being a city where summer drinking is even more delightful.