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Outdoor Seating

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Traditional Outdoor Seating Permit Process COVID-19 Temporary Outdoor Seating Extension Process Permit Provisions Standards

Outdoor seating enlivens the pedestrian environment and must be designed to allow unimpeded pedestrian passage around or through them. Outdoor seating is a portion of city sidewalks operated by restaurants or other businesses that are licensed to serve food and/or beverages, including alcohol.  The outdoor seating space is privately managed by the business and open for use by its customers. Use of such public right-of-ways requires a Private Use of Public Spaces permit.


Traditional Outdoor Seating Permit Process

If you are applying for an Outdoor Seating permit not related to COVID-19, you can use our traditional application process:

How to Apply

What are the next steps? The City will review submissions, reach out with any comments or feedback, charge the permit fee, and schedule an onsite inspection. After a successful site inspection, the City will issue your permit. Outdoor Seating permit fees are waived for FY 2021-2022.

COVID-19 Temporary Outdoor Seating Extension Process

The City of Raleigh created a temporary outdoor seating program to allow businesses like restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, and bars to operate in outdoor settings adjacent to their businesses. The program aims to allow for greater social distancing and safety for patrons. Under new City guidelines businesses can expand their footprint onto City public right-of-way such as sidewalks, streets, or in privately owned parking lots without having to meet specific City Code and permit requirements, while following safety guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Eligible businesses can now register for an Outdoor Seating Temporary License from the City--at no cost. Considerations for every request will include safety and mobility access.

Outdoor Seating Extension Guide | Application | FAQ  | Insurance Requirements

Who can apply?
Businesses such as restaurants, breweries, wine shops, bottle shops, coffee shops, bars, and other similar places offering food, beverages, or alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption services may be eligible for this program.

When to apply?
Businesses may register for an Outdoor Seating Temporary License now.  

When does the temporary license expire?
An Outdoor Seating Temporary License will be issued to all businesses who register and will last until all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Capacity restrictions were lifted on May 14th.  Since that date, licenses have been extended through October 31, 2021, at no cost to the applicant. 

•    Outdoor Seating Extension Guide
•    Application
•    FAQ
•    Insurance Requirements
•    Indemnity Agreement

Permit Provisions

  • Traditional Outdoor Seating permits are valid for one year (from July 1st through June 30th).
  • All traditional permit renewal applications must be submitted by June 30th.
  • The Permit and Development Portal notifies applicants applying for a traditional outdoor seating permit regarding the status of their permit approval.
  • 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 the permitted space.
  • 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.
  • All issued permits are location-specific.
  • Seating areas may be defined with approved fences, barriers, pots, or planters.
  • The validity of annual outdoor seating permits supersedes that of special events approved by the City. Special event coordinators have to coordinate with businesses holding outdoor dining permits if the use of public spaces outside their businesses is likely to be affected by the upcoming special event.


  • The Office of Emergency Management and Special Events notifies permit and license holders of violations.
  • Permit holders are responsible for remedying any violation within the time period specified in the notice. Beyond that, fines or subsequent revocation of permits applies.
  • Outdoor seating 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.
  • If at any time, Wake County Environmental Services revokes or suspends the issued permit, the City permit is revoked or suspended simultaneously.


For outdoor seating to be permitted within downtown public spaces, all of the following standards must be met:


  • Outdoor seating is limited to the area approved by the City as specified on the permit application
  • Seating area furniture may be located next to the curb (with 2 feet clearance) or adjacent to the building such that an unobstructed pedestrian corridor 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
  • Where curbside abuts on-street parking, curbside seating is limited to 2-top tables placed parallel to the street. A minimum 2 foot setback should be maintained from the curb edge
  • Additional sidewalk clearance may be required where pedestrian traffic or other circumstances warrant
  • An unobstructed pedestrian corridor of a minimum of 5 feet in width straight out must be maintained between any restaurant entrance and the pedestrian corridor space
  • Clear unobstructed height of 7 feet must be maintained between the sidewalk surface and overhead objects including umbrellas
  • A minimum clearance of 5 feet must be maintained between the outdoor seating space and edge of driveways, alleys, and handicapped ramps
  • The outdoor seating space must not block access to public amenities like street furniture, trash receptacles, and way finding, or directional signs
  • Outdoor seating areas may locate in front of adjacent properties with the written permission of the adjoining property/ business owner. A copy of the agreement must be filed with the Outdoor Seating Permit application
  • Seating areas at corners must not extend to within sight triangles at street intersections

Fayetteville Street Location Standards:
Fayetteville Street has wider sidewalks and enhanced streetscape elements.  Additional parameters apply for locating an outdoor seating space within the Garden Zone and the Walking Zone on Fayetteville Street.

  • An unobstructed pedestrian corridor a minimum of 7 feet in width must be maintained parallel to the street at all times.


  • Furniture must be made of durable material.  No plastic, or unfinished or pressure treated wood furniture is permitted
  • Planters or pots may be used to define the outdoor seating space but are not required
  • Perimeter fences though permitted are discouraged. Fences must not be solid or opaque, made of plastic or unfinished or pressure treated wood, or affixed to the ground
  • Tabletop signage is limited to menus and must not exceed 4 square feet in area
  • There can be no more than 2 umbrellas per table
  • The umbrellas must be fixed so as to leave a clear height of 7 feet from the sidewalk surface
  • Umbrellas are not allowed on tables located within 10 feet of block corners
  • Lighting must not cause glare to pedestrians or vehicular traffic
  • Lighting must not be affixed to city trees without a permit from the City of Raleigh Urban Forestry Division (contact 919-996-4858 for more information).


  • Outdoor seating is permitted only in front of a restaurant property. However, with written permission from the adjacent property owner, the outdoor seating area can extend into the frontage of the adjacent property
  • Seating areas may be defined with approved fences, barriers, pots, or planters
  • Waiters are permitted to access all pedestrian space between the building and the designated outdoor seating space to serve the diners
  • Tables, chairs, planters, and pots may remain in the designated outdoor seating area throughout the permit period. All umbrellas, signage, and other accessories, however, must be removed from the seating area at the close of business each day
  • Outdoor seating areas are permitted to be open from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. daily
  • The outdoor seating operation must comply with all State and Local sanitary and health regulations. View the State Rules Governing the Sanitation of Food Service Establishments
  • If at any time, the Wake County Environmental Services revokes or suspends the issued permit, the City permit is revoked or suspended simultaneously
  • A host stand and table top candles are allowed within the approved seating area. However, these accessories have to be removed from the seating area at the close of business
  • No tents or cash registers are permitted within the outdoor seating area
  • Outdoor seating areas cannot run electrical cords from the restaurant building or the city power receptacles
  • Where alcoholic beverages are served, the permit holder must comply with all State and Local regulations for the sale, possession, and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages
  • Loudspeakers are prohibited unless approved under an Outdoor Amplification Permit from the City
  • Permits are not transferable to other individuals
  • Permit holders may be required to remove private materials or accessories temporarily to allow street, sidewalk, or utility access for maintenance operations or during special events.


  • The permit holder is responsible for keeping the immediate area covering 6 feet on all sides from the edge of the designated outdoor seating area clean of garbage, food debris, paper, cups, or cans associated with the operation of the outdoor dining space on a daily basis.  All waste and trash must be properly disposed of by the permit holder
  • The permit holder is responsible for timely removal of snow and ice from the outdoor seating area as per the standards specified in the City publication Fayetteville Street Renaissance Maintenance Partnership, Programs and Policies (see Appendix Section 4). No ice-melt should drain into tree pits
  • The permit holder is responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, and security of furniture and accessories used in the outdoor seating area
  • Sidewalks within and adjacent to the outdoor seating area must be washed down and cleaned on a daily basis. Any stains from spills must be removed. Soiled pavement not able to be cleaned must be replaced by the permit holder, under the supervision of the Parks Department. Water and detergents used for cleaning must not drain into tree pits
  • Umbrellas and other outdoor seating area furniture must be kept clean, safe, and attractive
  • The permit holder is responsible for paying any costs resulting from damage to public space due to the outdoor seating operation. Repairs may be hired out to third parties. However, the permit holder is responsible to ensure that the contract work meets the city streetscape standards.


Lead Department:
Emergency Management and Special Events
Service Categories:
Hospitality Permits