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Other permits for businesses

A business may require other permits in addition to a business licence, depending on the type of business and location. Below is information on the most common types of additional permits.

Outdoor patios and cafés

Outdoor patios add to the vibrancy of Calgary communities and are encouraged throughout the city, especially in our Main Streets areas. Rules for establishing and operating an outdoor patio is regulated by the Land Use Bylaw 1P2007, which defines an outdoor patio as “a use where food or beverages are served or offered for sale for consumption on a portion of the premises which are not contained within a fully enclosed building.” This web page contains information for business owners interested in establishing or expanding an outdoor patio.

Most new outdoor patios (except those on Stephen Avenue or Barclay Mall) require a development permit (DP). If the outdoor patio crosses your property line and extends onto public property, you will also require a license of occupation (LOO). Additional permits, licenses and inspections will be required depending on factors such as the extent and value of construction, amount of seating, whether alcohol is served, etc.

While new layout configurations and locations are considered during the review process, public safety, residential concerns and legal requirements are a priority. The City is required to limit the number of patios that occupy street parking spots and hinder pedestrian traffic.

Each project is unique and will have different approval requirements. As a first step, we recommend phoning the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311. We will arrange a pre-application meeting with a senior planning technician who will guide you through the required processes.

Use the planning applications fee calculator or the 2018 Business License Fee Schedule to learn about the costs.

Next steps

  1. Before investing in design plans, consult with neighbours, community groups and provincial regulators (see Contacts sheet). Their input could influence your set up and alert you to possible future project concerns.

  2. When you have a rough layout, contact the Technical Assistance Centre to determine if you need a building permit, trades permit(s), fire inspection or an inspection for an occupant load card change. In addition, you may require all or some of the following approvals:
    • development permit
    • development completion permit
    • license of occupation
    • building occupancy permit
    • outdoor patio category added to your business license
    • alcohol beverage sales license
    • Alberta Health Services inspection

There are numerous factors that influence required approvals. Some examples include:

  • operation duration and seating capacity
  • patio location
    1. on private property or city sidewalk/curb lane
    2. on Stephen Avenue or Barclay Mall
    3. temporary extension to an existing space or new space altogether
  • construction scope including roof and walls, lights, heat or plumbing
  • value of construction costs - $5,000 is a threshold
  • type and nature of beverage and food offerings - will liquor service travel through an unlicensed area
  • patron entrance and exit points

A development permit is one of the more common permits that may be required.

Prepare your application

  1. For a development permit (DP), you will need eight copies of a site plan, floor plan and elevations, drawn to a professional drafting standard. Hiring an architect or designer is advised but not required. You will also need photos, certificates and other documents as listed in the Development Permit Application Requirement List.

  2. For a license of occupation (LOO), many of the same documents will be required, plus detailed plans including road right-of-ways (ROW) and dimensions of street features.

Submit your application in person

Bring all required documents, along with your application fee to the Planning Services Centre. During summer months, we suggest booking an appointment. Book through the Planning Services Centre 403-268-5311 or via eAppointment.calgary.ca.

If your application is approved

  1. The decision is advertised for 21 days, and public appeals are accepted. During this period, you can apply for a building permit (if required). If no appeals are submitted, the Development Permit is released.

  2. Following release, you can have the outdoor patio license category added to your existing business license (fee associated).

After the patio is built, you are required to schedule a development completion permit inspection. You will also have to schedule final inspections for any other permits that were issued (building, trades, etc.), along with Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission approvals.

Common situations

  • If you already have a business licence, you will require another licence to open a patio. You will need to have the outdoor patio license category added to your existing business license. Once this is done, you will just need to renew the whole license on your regular schedule.

  • If you would like to add on to your existing licensed patio (perhaps for a special event), a development permit is usually not required if the addition is set up for three days or less. If the event it is set up for more than three days, a Special Function Class 2 development permit is required.

  • If you would like to place a table with a few chairs outside your establishment, a permit is required, even if you do not provide service to that table. A development permit and/or a license of occupation is required when a business activity expands outside the building.

City parks and public property

Generally, vendors wanting to set up in parks and public property outside of downtown are only permitted to operate as part of a major festival or event.

If your business wishes to participate in a City-approved festival or event on public roadways, pathways or parks, contact the festival organizers directly for permission.

Vendors at City-approved special events and festivals

If you are a vendor only participating in City-approved special events and festivals, you may not require a business licence. For operating requirements, visit Calgary parks or email eventservices@calgary.ca for vendor pre-qualification details.

Booking park event space for your business

Businesses can book park space for special events or to allow for consistent access for organized activities (such as fitness classes) by obtaining a green space permit. These permits do not provide permission to sell services or allow vending within the park, nor do they provide exclusive use of the park space.

For more details or to book a park space, picnic site, meeting room or event facility, contact 311 or book through Parks.

Busking

Buskers provide street performances for public entertainment.

Visit Busking in Calgary for more information, including how to apply.

Sign permits

The City has requirements for signage based on the type of sign and its location. Below is an overview of sign types in Calgary.

Signs on private property

Signs are not allowed to advertise the address or be placed in front of a home-based businesses.

Signs on private property are defined and separated by class in the Land Use Bylaw.

Below is a brief description of each sign class. Building and development lists and forms has application forms and a Planning applications fee schedule. Signs are either permitted or discretionary depending on the land use district and Land Use Bylaw rules. For details related to a sign, contact the Planning Services Centre.

Class A – general signs

This class includes: address signs, art signs, banner signs, construction signs, directional signs, election signs, flag signs, gas bar signs, pedestrian signs, real estate signs, show home signs, special event signs, temporary signs, window signs and any sign in a building not meant to be seen from outside.

These signs are typically allowed in all land use districts and generally only require a permit if they do not meet the rules.

Class B – fascia signs

Fascia signs attach to the outside of a building, parallel to the wall they are mounted on. They are usually above the main floor, but below the roof line. New fascia signs require a development permit. If you are replacing the sign copy without changing the sign box or location, no permit is required. Land Use Bylaw rules limit the size, location and lighting of these signs.

Class C – free standing signs

Free standing signs are usually placed near the road at the edge of a property to promote a business. Free standing signs do not rotate, but may be lit up or have interior lighting behind removable panels. New signs require a development permit. The panels that hold the sign copy, or where the business information is, can be replaced without a new permit.

Class D – canopy, awning and projecting signs

These signs stick out from the face of a building. New signs require a development permit and have specific rules for size, height and projection from the building. Projecting signs are limited to the number allowed on a particular wall.

Class E – message signs, inflatables and miscellaneous signs

This class includes: digital message signs, flashing or animated signs, inflatable signs, message signs, painted wall signs, roof signs, rotating signs, temporary sign markers and any sign that does not fit into other classes of signs.

These signs require development permits to install or alter and have specific Land Use Bylaw rules.

Signs on public property

Signs on public property, such as temporary signs, elections signs, garage sale signs, signs in parks and signs advertising a service must follow the Temporary Signs Bylaw rules.

Temporary signs

Location

A temporary sign cannot be:

  • Closer than 30 metres to an intersection, City bus shelter, transit bench, bus zone, LRT station or LRT platform.
  • Within 10 m of a crosswalk that is not at an intersection.
  • Closer than 2 m from a curb or edge of road.
  • On any traffic island or centre median.
  • Obstructing a traffic control device.
  • On any Prohibited or restricted roadway.
  • Hazardous to traffic or pedestrians.

Attachment

A temporary sign cannot be:

  • Attached to a standard street light pole, traffic signal pole or a City sign pole (except for posters).
  • Attached on or within a plus 15 bridge, pedestrian walkway or overpass.
  • Attached to a sound wall.
  • Permanently affixed.
  • Supported by string, rope, metal stakes or wire.
  • Damaging to municipal property.

In addition, a temporary sign is illegal if it:

  • Is placed on a decorative lamp post.
  • Could be a hazard to either the person erecting the sign or a member of the public.
  • Has a sign face larger than 0.6 square metres (3 m2 for election signage).
  • Is lit, electrified or inflatable.
  • Becomes unsightly.
  • Is placed on a fire hydrant.
  • Is displayed for more than 14 days before or more than 24 hours following the date of the advertised event, whichever is less.

Election signs have certain exemptions from the Temporary Signs Bylaw.

Banner signs over roadways

Banners attached to a pedestrian overpass are applied through the Roads’ epermit system. A temporary banner over a roadway will be considered if it:

  • Is promoting a non-profit, charitable cause or public event.
  • Is requested a minimum of four months prior to the desired install date.
  • The applicant provides:
    • An insurance certificate.
    • A Government of Alberta corporation non-profit search document.
    • A scaled detail drawing of the banner that follows the design requirements.

For more information, visit banner over roadway permit.

Garage sale signs

Garage sales can have up to three signs posted. These signs can only be up on the day before the day of the sale. Garage sale signs must include the owners name, address, phone number and date the sign was posted.

Signs in parks

Signs for businesses or services are not allowed in parks.

Special functions (tents and events)

Special functions are a great way for your business to show appreciation for your customers or to showcase a sale. They may also allow you to increase the size of your business during a festival or for Stampede. In Calgary, special functions must meet Land use Bylaw rules, applicable safety regulations and licensing requirements.

There are two types of special functions: Class 1 and Class 2. The class depends on how the function operates.

Class 1

Special Function Class 1 accommodates educational, social, recreational, sporting and worship events such as weddings, circuses, birthdays, trade shows and ceremonies. Or, it allows the expansion of the uses already occurring on the property. These functions are anticipated to have a minimal effect on the surrounding neighbourhood.

Class 2

A Special Function Class 2 accommodates the temporary expansion of a commercial licensed establishment, including a conference and event facility, drinking establishment, restaurant and night club. These events may have higher impacts and a development permit is generally required.

When is a permit required?

If you are planning to hold a special function or event, you may need permits. Development permits are required when certain Land Use Bylaw rules or business activities dictate that an event needs to be reviewed. Building permits are required when tents, air supported structures, stages and other festival-type structures are erected, regardless of the timing of the event.

Your event needs a development permit, if:

Your event falls under Special Function Class 1 and:

  • Your event is over 15 consecutive days.
  • Events on site total more than 30 days.
  • You have tents over one storey.
  • Your event is located in a corner visibility triangle.

Your event falls under Special Function Class 2 and:

  • Your event is up longer than three consecutive days.
  • Events on site total more than 30 days.
  • The total tent area is over 125 m2 and the event is within 45 m of a residential area.
  • The total tent area is over 300 m2 and the event is in a downtown or East Village area.
  • The total tent area is over 75 m2 and the event is in a C-N1, C-N2, I-E, I-R, CC-ER, or CC-EPR district.
  • Your tents have openings facing a residential district. Emergency exits, loading bay doors or non-operating windows facing a residential district are allowed. If your tent and the residential district are separated by a street, openings are allowed.
  • You have tents over one storey.
  • Your event is located in a corner visibility triangle.

In 2017, we've made it easier for event organizers by allowing a development permit approval for an event to last for three years, if you meet the criteria below:

  • At least three consecutive years of approved development permits for Special Function Class 2 events.
  • No major changes to the layout of the special function event as shown on the previously approved plans.
    • Major changes like adding new tents or increasing the size of the special event area would be need to be considered through a new development permit review.
    • Minor changes like moving a tent, reducing the number of tents or moving a smoking area because of complaints from last year would not impact the overall event and would likely be approved for a three-year development permit.
  • No appeals filed with the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) for three consecutive years.

Your event needs a building permit, if:

  • Your event is in a residential district and the tents are on a commercial site.
  • The tents area is over 60 m2.
  • There is a stage platform higher than 1.2 m.
  • There is an overhead structure being used in conjunction with a tent or stage.
  • There is temporary seating, such as bleachers.
  • An individual tent is over 300 m2.
  • Your event has over 1,000 participants.
  • A tent contains cooking equipment.

Depending on your event, your permit requirements will vary. Please contact the Planning Services Centre to discuss your event.

If you need permits for your event, plan ahead to allow time for permit processing, approval and release.

Stampede events

Stampede events and special functions are treated the same as regular special events. Due to the number of events during Stampede, permit processing times may be longer, so plan accordingly.

Events on City-owned land and large events

Large events can involve many City departments. If you are shutting down a road for a marathon, for example, you would need a street use permit from Roads and the Calgary Police Service to divert traffic. When multiple City departments are involved and an event is taking place on City land, contact the Interdepartmental Events Team (403-476-4304) to ensure you get all required permits. The Festival and Event Planning Guide can help you plan your event.

The criteria for Interdepartmental Events Team involvement is:

  • The event must be on a City-owned park or road.
  • The event must involve at least two City departments.

Exceptions to these criteria can be made for large or complex events that need help from various City departments.

Licence of Occupation

When a business wants to use a public sidewalk or curb lane, a Licence of Occupation is required.To obtain a Licence of Occupation, contact 311. Any business licence waiting for the Licence of Occupation will remain pending until the Licence of Occupation is approved.

The fee is listed under other applications in the Planning Applications Fee Schedule.

Street use permit

A street use permit is required to use any City road right-of-way and is issued to reserve street space for construction, moving or filming. The street use permit allows the use of a street, sidewalk, alley, walkway, back lane, boulevard or traffic control set-up.

To apply for a street use permit, contact 311 or use the Roads’ online permit system (for registered users).