Sidewalk Cafes- Temporary

Click here to open a PDF version of this tip sheet. 

Sidewalk Cafes on City Streets

Sidewalk cafes on City streets can be a great way to encourage walking, add vitality to the street, and promote local economic development.  Sidewalk seating associated with an adjacent business requires a Right-of-Way Occupancy Permit for Sidewalk Cafes. Refer to the Sidewalk Cafe Tip Sheet for more information about permanent sidewalk cafes.

Temporary Sidewalk Café:

  • Good for up to 90 days
  • Permanent structures are not permitted
  • Will accommodate the service of alcohol provided the temporary fencing meets requirement of the WA Liquor Control Board
  • Open-flame heaters are not permitted
  • Temporary fencing may include ropes and/or chains of high quality. No unfinished wood or pressure-treated lumber is allowed and no plastic.
  • Chairs and tables must be brought in each night
  • Generally an over-the-counter permit


  • Application
  • Site plan
  • Certificate of Liability Insurance from an authorized representative of your insurance company
  • Proof of ownership

 How do I get started?

  1. Review the site location and identify if the business is located on an arterial or non-arterial street.
  2. Layout a site plan of your proposed sidewalk café and identify other items in the sidewalk and outside of the sidewalk. Think about how the sidewalk café will be accessible and detectable per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.
  3. If you wish to extend your liquor license to include the sidewalk café, you will be responsible for obeying all City and State laws and ordinances, including those established by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. They can be contacted at: WA Liquor Control Board, 3000 Pacific Avenue SE, Olympia, WA 98504 (360) 664-1600.
  4. You are responsible for meeting the requirements of the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department. You may contact them at or (253) 798-4711.
  5. Consider meeting with City staff prior to submitting. Staff can help with questions and can also meet you on site.

Review Process Steps

  1. Apply for Temporary Sidewalk Cafe Permit online at Tacoma Permits (ACA) and attach all necessary information (see above).
  2. You will need to pay for the permit online or over the phone using our IVR by calling (253) 573-2587 and following the prompts

General Guidelines

The guidelines for sidewalk cafe design and placement of tables and chairs are general in order to encourage variety by the individual restaurant owner.  Each approved sidewalk cafe shall:

  • Directly abutting the restaurant so patrons and servers do not cross the flow of sidewalk pedestrian traffic.
  • Be adjacent to the restaurant’s property (frontage or side).
  • Leave sufficient unobstructed sidewalk width for the comfortable passage of pedestrians. This will be a minimum clearance of 5-feet on non-arterial roads and a minimum of 7-feet on arterials along the full length of the sidewalk café. Areas of high pedestrian volumes, such as those near intersections, may require additional clearance. Areas adjacent to angle parking must allow for a 2-foot buffer from the curb. See Site Plan Requirements for details.
  • Provide a site plan with proper dimensions between railings, curb, and obstructions.
  • Provide a detailed site plan of the sidewalk café with proper dimensions of tables, chairs, and other appurtenances.
  • Pedestrian pathways should be in a straight line and don’t require people to jog in and out of cafes or around obstructions.
  • Sidewalk cafés will not require a change to the occupancy permit for the associated business, provided the following standards are met:
  1. The total area of the sidewalk café is less than 75 square feet; or the total area of the sidewalk café is 75 square feet or more and a legal exit path can be provided directly to the public place.
  2. If the total area of a sidewalk café is 75 square feet or more and the only legal exit path is through the establishment, a City of Tacoma Development Services review is required. If City of Tacoma Development Services determines that interior alterations are needed to provide sufficient exiting, then a building permit application for the alterations permit will be required.
  3. Any sidewalk café less than 75 square feet must have egress directly to the public place. The egress must be free of obstructions, including gates of any type.
  • Fencing must be between 30 and 42 inches in height, or 42 inches required by WA Liquor Control Board.
  • Fencing must be, generally transparent, and constructed of a high end materials. For temporary sidewalk cafes, materials will typically include rope, decorative chain, and/or landscaping. No unfinished or pressure treated wood will be allowed. No plastic will be allowed.
  • Sidewalk cafes must comply with noise standards set forth in Tacoma Municipal Code 8.122
  • Not block access to Fire Department connections, sewer, water, gas valves, or exits from adjacent buildings.
  • Hold a valid business license.
  • Have a Washington State liquor license if liquor is to be served.

Site Plan Requirements:

In order to review your application in a timely manner, it is important that special attention to the development of site plan is provided to assist with development of your site plan, please check off the following minimum requirements prior to submittal, acknowledging that the site plan addresses all requirements:

  • Label the property address, business name, street names, and north arrow.
  • Show and label all existing sidewalk obstructions (such as fire hydrants, tree wells, street furniture, street lights, bike racks, utility covers in the sidewalk, and utility poles).
  • Show the proposed sidewalk café layout, including the number of tables and chairs, umbrellas, railings, and utility connections to the building.
  • Provide accurate dimensions between the railing, if proposed, or the table and chairs, if no railing, and all sidewalk obstructions. The minimum allowed sidewalk clearance is 5 feet on a non-arterial street and 7 feet on an arterial street.
  • Provide accurate dimensions within the sidewalk café, such as distance to the building and front door. (How much space to patrons have to walk around tables/chairs?)
  • If you are proposing a railing or stanchions, show the style of railing or stanchion.
Translate »