Wheres the COVID-19 loophole?
Where's the COVID-19 loophole? Anders Clark/ Getty Images

Chef Eric Rivera's Ballard restaurant, Addo, has been called "tech-obsessed" and "highly-experimental" by Wired. And despite a global pandemic that's shutting down restaurants left and right, Addo is not only surviving—it's thriving. But it does have one major battle on its hands: parking enforcement.

"Basically, the last three days we had parking enforcement coming into our area every day, twice a day, writing a ticket or getting ready to write a ticket," Rivera told me.

Addo has managed to stay ahead of the social distancing curve by pivoting to deliveries and pick-up meal kits, a transition made seamless by Addo's atypical take on the restaurant business: all of Addo's meals are ticketed events, there are no walk-ins, and everything is done online via newsletter or social media profiles. But boy, are the parking tickets cramping Rivera's style.

Parking enforcement is ticketing Addo's delivery vehicles. They're hounding customers waiting for takeout. Rivera keeps having to shoo the parking cops away, he says.

This is a speed bump. An unnecessary one, according to Rivera.

Worse, it's a speed bump that has supposedly already been addressed.

Last week, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced several measures to ease some parking regulations around the city to help restaurants and businesses. In brief, those measures eliminated the 72-hour parking rule (a rule my neighbors in Wedgwood love; it makes it illegal for a car to be parked in the same spot for three days), limited booting and towing, and established temporary restaurant loading zones "to support and facilitate food pick-up," according to a statement from the mayor's office.

Restaurants can request to get a temporary food pick-up loading zone here.

"The first locations to receive temporary loading zones will be in areas with high concentrations of restaurants on blocks that do not otherwise have enough loading options," the statement reads.

There are six street parking spots in front of Rivera's restaurant and a three-minute loading zone that's being used as a "non-stop customer load" for deliveries. So a temporary restaurant loading zone could come in handy.

"I have to be like, 'Hey, no we're loading,' or, 'That's a guest car,'" Rivera said. "It's frustrating because on parking enforcement's side, they're told they're supposed to be doing that. It's them having to play the game, I guess. But on a top-down level, does anyone really need a $35 ticket right now?"

He paused.

"I shit you not," Rivera said, drily, "right now there's a parking enforcement guy writing a ticket."

According to Kelsey Nyland, a spokesperson with the mayor's office, other ticketing practices not related to the three changes the mayor announced have not changed.

"People should still follow all posted parking signs, including load zones, other time restrictions, paid zones, and residential permit zones so that there will still be available parking spaces in front of businesses and other destinations," Nyland wrote in an email.

Rivera says the level of ticketing he's seeing is unusual for his area. His restaurant is in an almost residential part of Ballard on the corner of 24th Avenue W and NW 64th Street.

"We've never had anybody fucking with us," Rivera said, referencing parking enforcement's heightened presence. "Now it feels like all of a sudden people are going around ticketing every day."

It's also not like the streets are clogged with customers at all times.

"I can control how many people are coming in and coming out," Rivera said, because of how Addo has always functioned through online ticketed events. "People are selecting when they want to come and we're staggering our ticket pick up times and telling guests to be here on time."

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Whatever is going on, Rivera recognizes there are bigger fish to fry.

"I know I'm not the only restaurant having to deal with this new, really weird stuff," Rivera said.

If you're experiencing something similar, shoot me an email.

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