Permits for Private Use of Public Spaces

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PUPS History Permitting Overview Responsibilities of Permit Holders 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. 

Need a little more information? Keep scrolling through the page.

**The Office of Special Events permits the public right-of-way for uses such as outdoor seating, pushcart vending, street performers, and newsracks.

PUPS History

Private use of public space (PUPS) regulations were first adopted by the City Council in 2007 and amended once in 2008. The current regulations apply to specific Downtown limits only. An update to the PUPS was initiated in 2015: Staff started work on auditing this program with stakeholder input to prepare appropriate updates to the standards, policies, and processes regulated by this program for permits issued for FY 15-16. However, larger citywide issues on outdoor dining took priority and the update process to the handbook has been put on hold since Summer of 2015. Citywide outdoor seating and pushcart vending ordinances have been adopted and those supersede PUPS regulations for those uses citywide.

Permitting Overview

PUPS standards and procedures apply to all areas within the Downtown Overlay District (DOD), and three adjacent Pedestrian Business Overlay Districts:

  • Glenwood South
  • North Person Street retail area (Oakwood-Mordecai)
  • Peace Street retail area. 

For lots at the corners of Salisbury and Wilmington Streets and intersecting cross-streets, the regulations apply around the corner of the intersecting street, to as deep along Salisbury or Wilmington as the edge of the individual lot for which the permit is requested. This special treatment is consistent with another of the "5 in 5" goals of the Livable Streets initiative: to "complete a Fayetteville Street Renaissance." The standards seek to build on the sense of place established by the Street's recent redesign, enlisting public spaces to foster new civic and economic activity in the downtown core.

These standards also apply to newsracks, outdoor dining, street performances, pushcart vending, mail drop-off boxes, and certain minor encroachments, including outdoor merchandise, street furniture and accessories, awnings, lighting, signage, and Façade Grant elements.

PUPS standards and procedures do not apply to the following activities: special events, street closings, public parks, and Major Encroachments. These are handled separately by the designated City Department, Division, or Agency. For information regarding these exempt uses, please contact the following:

Responsibilities of Permit Holders

All private uses of public spaces require a valid City of Raleigh permit approving the specific use. See Appendix Sections 1 and 2 for permit fees and staff contact information. 

Please Note:

  • 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 placing newsracks 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 the permits officer 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 the Zoning Department Inspection Officer.

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. 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 the permits officer, 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 the Zoning Department Inspection Officer.

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 vendors and street performers. The permit holder requires special permission from the special event coordinator/ sponsor 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 Downtown Special Events, please contact Office of Special Events at 919-996-2200.

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 Planning and Development Customer Service Center maintains record of all permits including contact information.

Maintenance Liability:

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 (see Appendix Section 4). 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, Division, or Agency.


All permit holders are expected to adhere to the location, design, operation, and maintenance standards and procedures outlined in this handbook. Non-compliance with respective standards and procedures is a violation. Zoning officials notify permit holders of violations.

Fines and Revocation:

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.

Revocation Criteria:

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 the 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.)

Helpful Contacts

These phone numbers may be helpful when obtaining your permits:

Topic Organization Phone Number
ABC permit

North Carolina ABC Commission

Beer/wine license Revenue Services, City of Raleigh 919-996-5130
Building permits

Home-based businesses 
Planning and Development Department, Customer Service 919-996-2495
Electrical permit for signs

Sign permits
Planning and Development Department, Signs 919-996-2472
Major encroachments Transportation Department, Right-of-Way Services 919-996-2493


Outdoor dining


Pushcart vending

Special events

Street performances

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





Lead Department:
Planning and Development
Service Categories:
Permits - Commercial Zoning