A solution is developing about Andy’s tent

SNOHOMISH — A solution to retain covered outdoor dining at Andy’s Fish House is in the works.

Ultimately the tent’s going to be replaced.

The restaurant now has an architect designing a replacement outdoor dining structure, business 

co-owner Bronn Journey said.

City staff set a goal to expedite permits on that, city administrator Heather Thomas told the City Council last week.

The news came out of a sit-down meeting between the architect and city officials early last week.

“We have an architect who wants to see it through,” Journey said.

The replacement isn’t expected to go up by a July 5 deadline when Andy’s legally has to remove its tent. However, they want to have permits in hand to be able to proceed with a freestanding, permanent replacement before that deadline, and hope to get the new one built before cold weather comes, Journey said.

Outdoor dining is important for its operations. Andy’s, at First and Avenue D, seats about 25 inside and many more on its patio outside. 

“Pardon the fish pun, but indoors it’s cramped like sardines,” Journey said.

They’d hired a professional engineer to design the tent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Washington twice shut down indoor dining statewide, and also limited it heavily with an emphasis on outdoor dining.

The city considers tents put up during COVID-19 as temporary structures. They’ve got to go. They were allowed because the city suspended the permitting rules until the COVID-19 emergency ended in late 2022. These never went through having to meet building code. 

Code enforcement gave eight restaurants warning notices in August 2023. By October, four dropped their tents; one more dropped in the spring. Two restaurants are seeking city grants to help build replacement structures, Thomas said.

For Andy’s, at First Street and Avenue D, this all came at a tricky time.

August’s official warning came months before their lease was up, Journey said. It wouldn’t make business sense to spend thousands of dollars to build a new structure if a new lease wasn’t assured.

Andy’s inked a new 15-year lease on May 1, he said.

The architect appeared by coincidence. Journey is a harpist, and the architect went to one of the concerts a couple of weekends ago and they got to talking.

So now they have someone well-credentialed who can read permits.

Until these pieces fell into place, though, the seas were choppy.

An online petition to “save the tent” published by a supporter launched April 25 and gained more than 6,000 signatures in a week. It copied a message from Journey calling on the city to inspect the existing tent to see if it meets code and, essentially, give it a retroactive permit.

City officials say the tent as it is today wouldn’t have been able to pass formal permitting if it had been applied for.

The city could find code violations up and down First Street, Journey said.

Tents were a hornet’s nest it kicked, he said.

In retrospect, the petition demonstrated Andy’s has plenty of support, but also presented some red flags.

“We want to stick to selling fish and chips, and it got big and political,” Journey said.

The petition led to some people going overboard.

City staff received threats, some of which were turned over to police, Thomas said.

Journey heard one of the voicemails. It contained a death wish and profanities toward a councilmember.

“We appreciate the support, but not like that,” Journey said.

City Council President Tom Merrill said last week the situation has “been tough on the community and tough on the staff.”

The city has invited Andy’s to again apply for one of the remaining $10,000 COVID-19 reliefs grants from the city called the Snohomish Thrives program. It uses federal money and is for businesses that can demonstrate the pandemic caused a downturn in business.

But Andy’s was one of the few to see business grow during COVID-19. They think they are ineligible for a Thrives grant, Journey said.

Andy Gibbs took over the place in 2014, and it was his dad Chuck’s before that as Chuck’s Seafood Grotto. Journey, a co-owner, is one of their relatives and handles backend operations together with his wife.