Permitting Overview Permit and Development Portal Responsibilities of Permit Holders Newsracks Pushcart Vending Violations Helpful Contacts
This page provides a framework for the private use of the public space in Downtown Raleigh. It outlines basic procedures and standards for approving a variety of private uses of sidewalks and other public rights-of-way spaces. These types of permits help create an active, accessible, and vibrant urban environment in Raleigh.
Know what you're looking for? Check out the quick list of permit types below.
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Hospitality Permits apply to the following areas:
- Fayetteville Street District
- Glenwood South District
- Warehouse District
- Moore Square District
- Capital District
- Seaboard & Person Street District
- Hillsborough Street
These standards apply to newsracks, outdoor seating, parklets, pushcart vending, street performers, mail drop-off boxes, and certain minor encroachments, including outdoor merchandise, and street furniture and accessories.
Permit and Development Portal
Register or login to your Permit and Development Portal account, apply for the Newsrack, Outdoor Seating, Parklet, Pushcart Vending, or Street Performer permit and submit all documents for approval.
Responsibilities of Permit Holders
All private use of public spaces require a valid City of Raleigh permit approving the specific use.
- Established businesses requesting permits for use of public spaces must produce a copy of Proof of Insurance, if the proposed use is an extension of the operating business and on the same premise.
- Business owners requesting multiple minor encroachment permits for use of public space at one location, for one business, can use one Proof of Insurance to cover all minor encroachment requests as long as the City is additionally insured under the policy.
- Individual publishers or distributors requesting permits for use of public spaces may produce a single copy of Proof of Insurance for newsracks or pushcart vending in multiple locations.
- Permit holders and their employees must comply with the applicable permit standards and procedures.
Permit Validity & Renewals:
Permits are valid for one year (July 1st - June 30th) and expire on June 30th, except for minor encroachments (with the exception of outdoor merchandise) which do not require annual renewal. Annual renewal applications for allocated spots may be submitted as early as June 1st but no later than June 30th or the permits will be considered expired. Permits for qualifying locations that are available are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. The time of submittal of the complete application, as validated by City staff will be stamped and recorded. For multiple permit requests received for one qualifying location, a lottery will be executed for assigning the spots. All site-specific permits will be issued after a site inspection is completed by a Hospitality and Nightlife Liaison.
All issued permits are location-specific (except for street performers). If within a given year of receiving permit, the applicant desires to change location, an application and the applicable fees will have to be submitted for the new location.
Applicants must also reapply whenever the nature of use, ownership, scope, or location of the permitted uses change. The permit holder is responsible for ensuring the proper validity and timely renewal of permits as required for the approved use of public spaces.
During special events approved by the City such as festivals, parades etc. the annual permits may be temporarily suspended for pushcart vending and street performers. The permit holder requires special permission from the event organizer to use the public space within the designated boundary of the special event area. The standards of performance and procedures for use of public space during special events may vary. The permit holder is responsible for keeping track of upcoming special events and the designated boundaries that may affect their business. For more details on special events, please contact the Office of Emergency Management and Special Events at 919-996-2200.
Any private party receiving a permit for use of public space assumes responsibility for maintaining the spaces used by that activity. Areas must be kept clean and free of obstructions that impede pedestrian movement. Standards of maintenance must be consistent with those outlined in the City of Raleigh publication Fayetteville Street Renaissance Maintenance Partnership, Programs and Policies. The permit holder is liable for all damages and repairs to the streetscape, trees and vegetation, sidewalks, streets, or other public amenities that directly relate to the use of the permitted space. The permit holder is also responsible for the temporary removal of private materials or accessories from the permitted space for specific maintenance services deemed necessary by the responsible City Department or Division.
To provide access to newspapers and related printed information products, without their respective cabinets becoming visually obtrusive or a physical impediment.
- Newsrack Annual Permit: $16 (per newsrack unit) (not to exceed a total of $200 per publication)
*Fee varies with nature, type and size of business
- Newsrack permits are valid for one year (from July 1st through June 30th).
- All permit renewal applications have to be submitted by June 30th to the Permit and Development Portal.
- At the time of submittal of permit applications, applicants are also encouraged to provide contact email addresses that will be added to a listserv created for permit holders. The Permit and Development Portal maintains records of all permits including contact information.
- All issued permits are location-specific. If, within a given year of receiving permit, the applicant desires to change location, the application and the applicable fees will have to be submitted for the new location. For publications that have reached the $200 cap, the reapplication fee for the change of location for the given year will be waived. All permits will be issued after a site inspection is completed by the Hospitality and Nightlife Liaison.
- Permit holders may be required to remove newsracks temporarily to allow street, sidewalk or utility access for maintenance operations or during approved special events.
- The regulations of this section apply only to the boundaries of the Downtown Overlay District and the adjacent Pedestrian Overlay Districts (Peace Street, N. Person Street, and Glenwood South) as they exist on the effective date of this ordinance. Expansion of areas regulated by this section may only occur upon the City of Raleigh's establishing, with tangible evidence, the need for regulation.
Downtown Newsrack Standards: Standards for newsracks to be permitted within downtown public spaces, all of the following standards must be met.
- No more than seven free-standing racks are permitted in any qualifying location. Only one such location is permitted per street block face and should accommodate the most (up to the maximum 7) spaces permitted along that block face. Where there is more than one such qualifying location along a single block face, the newsrack cluster location is designated based on the first request processed. All other requests along the relevant block face are to be accommodated within this designated cluster location.
- Modular units one compartment wide count as one free-standing rack.
- Individual publications are permitted only one newsrack unit per qualifying location per street block face.
- Newsracks must be located such that an unobstructed sidewalk pedestrian corridor of a minimum of 5 feet in width is maintained parallel to the street at all times. Where existing obstructions are present (such as fire hydrants), the corridor can be measured to go around these obstructions. For tree grates, the corridor is measured from the outer edge of the grate, unless an ADA-compliant grate is installed, in which case the 5 feet can be measured directly from the tree trunk.
- Newsracks must be placed at least 5 feet from any fire hydrant, edge of street curb, edge of driveway cut, edge of crosswalk, utility boxes and vaults, edge of handicapped ramp, public benches, trash receptacles, building access, exits or emergency access/ exit ways, or emergency call box.
- Newsracks must not be located within a 5 foot radius of any building corner at a street intersection.
- The rear of a newsrack can be no more than 6 inches from the edge of the private property line parallel to the street. For modular newsracks, alternative placements may be permitted upon evaluation and approval by the City Council.
- Single newsrack units and modular newsrack units one compartment wide can be no larger than 55"h x 24"w x 24"d
- Wherever several units are grouped, modular newsracks are encouraged. The design of modular newsracks of larger dimensions will be subject to evaluation and approval by the Urban Design Center.
- Plastic newsracks are permitted, provided they are internally weighted to a minimum of 50 pounds, with no weighting materials visible externally
- Second-party advertising is not allowed on the newsracks.
- Newsracks must not be attached to the building or city tree.
- Newsrack units must be enclosed.
- Newsrack units must not block building display windows without the written consent of the adjoining property/ business owner. A copy of the agreement must be filed with the application.
Initial Space Allocation (for Currently Operating Vendors):
Top priority will be given to those publications continuously distributed at a given location for at least the previous 12 months (with the current newsrack permit, a dated photo, or other verifiable information provided as proof). Regarding the allocation of the new modular newsrack units on Fayetteville Street, it is the intent of the City staff to first accommodate the space interests of vendors currently operating within Downtown limits, to the fullest extent possible.
- If the space available at a given location is inadequate for the number of publications interested in locating there (i.e., there would be more than seven free-standing racks):
- First priority is given to publications published at least seven days per week,
- Second priority is given to publications published between two and six days per week, and
- Third priority is given to all other publications
- If two or more publications have equal priority and request the same location/ box space, allocation will decided by lottery. The lottery system will be administered by Emergency Management and Special Events staff.
- If two or more publications desire specific placement within a modular newsrack (e.g., upper right-hand corner, south side), allocation for the space will be decided by lottery.
- Vendors not receiving their first priority of space allocation through the lottery system will be registered on a waiting list for subsequent priority consideration or may apply for an additional modular unit placement at the same location, which shall be evaluated and approved by the City Council.
Subsequent Space Allocation - (for New Vendors):
After accommodating the space interests of all vendors currently operating within the Downtown limits, any open spaces thereafter, will be available for use by new vendors. Wherever qualifying free-standing newsrack space remains available on any given street block face, newsracks can be added there until the limit of seven free-standing racks is reached.
- Multiple space requests from new vendors for limited open spaces will be allocated on the same priority system as that followed for currently operating vendors.
- If a previously-permitted publication vacates a space, other publications can apply for that space under the above specified methods of prioritization.
- If all qualifying spots at a given location are taken, new vendors are encouraged to register on the waiting list for subsequent priority consideration.
General Number Limits:
- Maximum of seven free-standing racks are permitted per street block face (i.e., maximum of fourteen, counting both sides of the street). Modular units one compartment wide count as one free-standing rack.
- No two free-standing racks of the same publication are permitted at a given location.
- The permit holder is responsible for the maintenance, repair and upkeep of the newsracks. Newsrack units must be kept:
- reasonably free of dirt and grease
- reasonably free of chipped, faded, peeling, and cracked paint
- reasonably free of rust
- structural parts in good working order
- free of graffiti
- free of third party advertising stickers or fliers
- clear plastic or glass parts must be reasonably free of cracks, dents, scratches, abrasion, and discoloration
- The permit holder is responsible for paying any costs resulting from damage to public space due to the installation or operation of the newsracks.
Fayetteville Street Newsrack Standards
Fayetteville Street Location:
- Newsracks are limited to those locations indicated on the map and within City-provided modular newsracks only. On the 00 blocks of Hargett, Martin, Davie and South Streets, newsracks are permitted in qualifying locations a minimum of 100 feet from the edge of the Fayetteville Street right of way (the building edge facing Fayetteville Street). In the event there are no qualifying locations available, applicants will be permitted to place a modular newsrack unit along a block face that is not a hazard or unreasonable obstruction to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Fayetteville Street Design:
- No privately-owned newsrack units are permitted. Publications are only permitted in City-provided modular newsracks.
Fayetteville Street Number Limits:
- Within the modular newsracks on Fayetteville Street, no second spaces will be allocated to the same publication (through a lottery allocation) until all other interested publishers from the waiting list have had a chance to apply (within a period of 30 days following the approval date of these standards) and assigned a spot. Sunday editions are considered to be the same publication as the respective weekday paper.
Fayetteville Street Maintenance:
- The City of Raleigh Building Maintenance Division is responsible for the maintenance, repair and replacement of the modular newsracks located along Fayetteville Street.
- Any newsrack installed, used or maintained in violation of the standards and procedures will be tagged by Emergency Management and Special Events staff with a notice of violation stating the violation, date of tagging, and notice of intention to remove the newsrack if the violation is not corrected within 15 days. Upon tagging the newsrack, the Office of Emergency Management and Special Events will contact the permit holder stating the date within which the violation must be corrected.
- Emergency Management and Special Events staff may, as an alternative to tagging the newsrack, move, align, or reposition racks in order to restore them to a legal condition.
- The permit holder is responsible for remedying the violation within the permitted time period indicated. Beyond that, fines or subsequent revocation of permits applies as per standard procedure.
Any newsrack which has been tagged and remains in violation past the 15-day correction period shall be removed by Emergency Management and Special Events staff and stored in a secure location. Staff shall provide a notice of removal to the permit holder stating the date the newsrack was removed and the reasons for the action. Any newsrack thus removed and stored shall be released to the owner if claimed within 45 days after removal and upon payment of a fine of $200.
- If a removed newsrack is not claimed by the permit holder within the 45-day time period, the newsrack will be deemed unclaimed property in the possession of the City of Raleigh Police Department.
- Pushcart Annual Permit: $156 (per pushcart location)
- Push carts are valid for one year (from July 1st through June 30th)
- All permit renewal applications have to be submitted by June 20th to the Permit and Development Portal
- Special Event Permits supersede annual Pushcart Vending permits. If an approved special event is taking place, pushcart vending may not occur within 400 feet of the event footprint unless given permission by the event organizer. Scheduled special events are posted on the Festivals Calendar and Races/Walks/Parades Calendar.
- The Permit and Development Portal notifies applicants applying for a pushcart permit regarding the status of their permit approval.
- Permit holders may be required to remove private materials or accessories temporarily to allow street, sidewalk, or utility access for maintenance operations or during approved special events.
- Qualifying permit locations are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis which is tracked by the submittal stamp from the submission of a complete application. All permits will be issued after a site inspection is completed by a City employee.
- All issued permits are location specific.
For pushcart vending to be permitted within downtown public spaces, all the following standards must be met.
- Carts must not locate in any location that impedes, endangers, or interferes with pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
- All carts must operate in locations that are deemed non-competing to fixed-location businesses at a minimum of 50 feet away from a fixed establishment selling similar products excluding beverages. However, with the written permission from the fixed establishment, vendors can locate within 50 feet of such an establishment and sell similar products.
- Vending carts are excluded in public areas that are:
- within construction areas
- within 400 feet of the boundary of any special events area without the granted written permission from the event sponsor/ coordinator
- within a five (5) foot radius of any building corner adjacent to a street intersection
- A maximum of two cart operation areas are permitted per block. Cart operation areas must be at minimum 5 feet apart when each sell different primary products and at minimum 100 feet apart when each sells the same primary products.
- Cart operation areas must not include the landscaped areas between the sidewalk and edge of curb.
- Carts must not be locked or attached to trees.
- Food carts are not permitted to operate within 50 feet of an outdoor dining space along a street block face. However, with the written permission from the restaurant owner providing the outdoor dining services, vendors can locate within 50 feet of the pertaining outdoor dining area.
- Carts must be located at least 5 feet from the edge of any driveway, edge of a crosswalk, utility boxes and vaults, handicapped ramp, building entrances, exits or emergency access/ exit ways, or emergency call box.
- An unobstructed sidewalk pedestrian corridor of a minimum of 5 feet in width must always be maintained parallel to the street. Where existing obstructions are present (such as fire hydrants), the corridor can be measured to go around these obstructions. For tree grates, the corridor is measured from the outer edge of the grate, unless an ADA-compliant grate is installed, in which case the 5 feet can be measured directly from the tree trunk.
- All carts must be non-motorized with operable wheels. Persons with disabilities are permitted to use a motorized system to propel the pushcart.
- All food vending carts should be equipped with an appropriate grease blanket/ guard to trap grease from dripping onto public space.
- All carts must be self-contained with a waste receptacle. All equipment required for the operation (exceptions apply to food vendors for use of coolers), must be contained within the cart. Vendors must not empty waste into City-owned trash receptacles.
- Cart dimensions must not exceed 6 feet H. x 8-1/2 feet L. x 4 feet W.; total cart operation area must not exceed 100 square feet. Carts permitted prior to January 1, 2008 are grandfathered against the 6-foot maximum height requirement.
- Cart umbrellas or canopies must be attached to the cart and must not exceed 9 feet in height (above grade). Maximum umbrella diameter must not exceed 6 feet. Canopies must not extend more than 2 feet in any direction beyond the width and length of the cart. Umbrellas and canopies must not interfere with tree canopy, signage, or free movement of pedestrians.
- Carts are limited to 2 umbrellas each.
- Vendor pushcarts must be made of durable material and no plastic, unfinished, or pressure treated wood may be visible. All materials must be in accordance with all Local, State, Federal and Wake County Environmental Services rules and regulations.
- Pushcarts must be covered with an appropriate material to prevent exposure of food products to wind, dust, and insects and be in compliance with all applicable Local, State and Federal Health Department sanitary regulations.
- Pushcarts and umbrellas must incorporate professional self-contained signage and meet other sign regulations in place (Refer to Sec. 12-1001 of the City Code for sign regulations). Total signage on carts must not exceed 24 square feet.
- No free-standing signage is permitted as part of the pushcart vending operation.
- Sales of goods and merchandise are limited to food and beverage items, fresh cut flowers, original artwork, and handicrafts produced by the vendor/artisan.
- All items being offered for sale must be confined to the cart.
- Food vendors can place a maximum of 3 coolers (a maximum capacity of 80 quarts) on the public space within the cart operation area. Coolers must be stored and stacked in such a manner so as not to create visual clutter.
- All accessories used for the operation of food vending carts must be placed within 3 feet of the outer edges of the cart.
- Pushcart vendors are limited to the use of one stool/ chair for seating purposes within the cart operation area. No seating is allowed for patrons.
- Pushcarts must not be stored, parked, or left overnight on any street, sidewalk, or in any parking space of the city.
- Hours of operation of vending carts are limited to the hours between 6:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.
- Carts must be removed from the location between 4:00 a.m. and 6 a.m.
- Pushcart operator or his/her designee must always be present at the pushcart except in cases of an emergency.
- Permits are not transferable or assignable.
- The wastewater disposal standards of the Local and State sanitary regulations must be met for the cart operation. State Rules Governing the Sanitation of Food Service Establishment (15A NCAC 18A.2600).
- The pushcart vendor is responsible for the proper disposal of waste and trash associated with the operation. City trash receptacles are not to be used for this purpose. Vendors shall remove all waste and trash from their approved location at the end of each day or as needed to maintain the health and safety of the public. The vendor must keep clean all areas within 5 feet of the cart operation area clean of grease, trash, paper, cups, coolers, or cans associated with the vending operation.
- No liquid waste or grease is to be disposed in tree pits, storm drains, or onto the sidewalks, streets, or other public space. The vendor is responsible for the removal of grease from sidewalk and street surfaces resulting from the daily operation, unloading, and loading of the pushcart.
- Permit holders are liable for all damages and repairs to the streetscape, trees and vegetation, sidewalks, streets, or other public amenities that directly relate to the use of permitted space.
Pushcart Vending Violations:
- If at any time, the Wake County Environmental Services or NC Department of Agriculture revokes or suspends the issued food vending permit, the City permit is revoked or suspended simultaneously
All permit holders are expected to adhere to the location, design, operation, and maintenance standards and procedures outlined in this guide. Non-compliance with respective standards and procedures is a violation.
- The Office of Emergency Management and Special Events notifies permit holders of any violations.
- Permit holders are responsible for remedying the violation within the time specified in the notice. Beyond that, fines or subsequent revocation of permits applies.
- Permit violations incur a first time fine of $100. Subsequent violations are $200 for each occurrence, and permits are revoked if a third violation occurs within a fiscal year.
- Upon receiving a violation notice, permit holders are expected to remedy the violation within the time period specified in the notice. However, if the violations are not remedied within the time granted, violators may be subject to fines and possible permit revocation. Once permits are revoked, the permit holder is required to reapply for further consideration.
Permits can also be revoked if any of the following occurs:
- permit holder fails to maintain initial qualifications
- data or information is falsely represented in the application
- violation of Local, State and Federal health regulations
- conducts business in an unlawful or disorderly* manner or in such a way that constitutes a menace or detriment to the health, safety, or welfare of the public
- three police reports have been filed for disorderly* conduct by the permit holder within a fiscal year or
- three violations of any section of this handbook within a fiscal year
*To qualify as grounds for revocation, disorderly conduct/manner must be validated by an officer of the Raleigh Police Department. Predatory filing of police reports against individuals will not qualify.
These phone numbers may be helpful when obtaining your permits:
North Carolina ABC Commission
|Beer/wine license||Revenue Services, City of Raleigh||919-996-5130|
|Planning and Development Department, Customer Service||919-996-2495|
|Electrical permit for signs
|Planning and Development Department, Signs||919-996-2472|
|Major encroachments||Transportation Department, Right-of-Way Services||919-996-2493|
|Emergency Management and Special Events||919-996-2200|
|Police, Downtown||Raleigh Police Department||919-996-3855|
|Public Art||Raleigh Arts||919-996-3610|
|Vegetation impact||Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Department||919-996-4858|