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General Information
General Information

COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

COVID-19: Outdoor commerce and dining

To support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have expanded the range of allowed outdoor activities on both public and private property and streamlined permitting processes.

Permits for outdoor commerce, dining, and personal services

The City offers four options for permitting outdoor business activities during COVID-19. 

The Office of Economic Development is available to assist applicants who are trying to determine which program best meets their functional needs. 

Outdoor commerce on private property

New and existing businesses can get a temporary permit to operate in private outdoor spaces such as parking lots or patios in commercial and industrial areas.

Apply for a temporary outdoor use permit

Get started by emailing planning@cityofberkeley.info with the subject line "Outdoor Commerce". City staff will contact you to guide you through the application process. Include the following information in your message:

  • current business address
  • proposed outdoor business site address (if different)
  • type of business activity
  • contact information
 

You will need to provide the following documentation to complete your application:

  1. site plan
  2. business operations plan
  3. approval of property owner
  4. Zoning Certificate Application

Depending on the type of activity proposed, applications may require approval from multiple City departments, including Environmental Health, Police, Fire, or Public Works. See a flowchart outlining the permit process. Planning department staff will route your application as needed.

Street Closure Permit

A street closure permit allows the use of a full travel lane. This can be used for outdoor dining, commerce, or personal services.

Individual businesses may apply for a street closure permit independently. Businesses or merchant groups may also work collaboratively on a shared application to close one or more blocks to traffic.

Apply for a street closure permit

Submit applications by email to sallen@cityofberkeley.info.

Street closure applicants will need to:

  • demonstrate an adequate circulation or traffic control plan
  • provide an ADA-compliant path of travel throughout the event
  • provide access to restrooms and handwashing facilities

Associated sound and food permits related to outdoor commerce street closures are coordinated between the Special Events office and the Environmental Health division. An application should begin with the street closure permit first.

A note on block parties: Block party permits are for residential use only and cannot be used for commercial applications. All commercial applications, including religious gatherings, must obtain a street closure special event permit.

Sidewalk Seating Permit

For applicants wishing to serve food and/or alcohol or increase their outdoor dining capacity, a sidewalk seating application is likely the most appropriate. This may also be used for conducting personal services outdoors (such as barbershops, nail salons, and non-medical massage). 

Apply for a sidewalk seating permit

Submit applications by email to planningpermits@cityofberkeley.info.

You will need to complete the following steps for your application:

  1. Create a site plan
  2. Provide certificate of liability insurance
  3. Submit application to planningpermits@cityofberkeley.info

This permitting process flow chart provides an overview of the application process.

Parklets

For applicants that may want to provide extra outdoor space for fitness classes, queuing, or "to-go" food consumption,  construction of a parklet may be a better fit.

Apply for a parklet permit

Submit applications by email to permits@cityofberkeley.info.

You will need to complete the following steps for your application:

  1. Create a site plan
  2. Provide certificate of liability insurance
  3. Submit attached application to permits@cityofberkeley.info

Technical assistance with design and permitting

City of Berkeley staff are prepared to work with applicants once an initial application (even if incomplete) has been submitted. View the Outdoor Commerce Guide for assistance. 

Office of Economic Development staff are also available for scheduled pre-application consultations to provide feedback and discuss options for sidewalk seating, parklets, and street closures. To schedule a consultation, email oedmailbox@cityofberkeley.info using the subject line "Outdoor commerce consultation request."

COVID-19 requirements and operating standards

All businesses operating for outdoor commerce and dining must comply with state and local COVID-19 safety measures. Specifically, they must:

Find more information on COVID-19 requirements for businesses, including downloadable signage on face coverings and social distancing, on our guidance and materials for businesses webpage.

Restaurants

Restaurants providing outdoor dining must have all necessary permits to provide outdoor food service and comply with safety guidelines provided by Environmental Health.

Additionally, restaurants must ensure outdoor dining areas comply with social distancing mandates:

  • arrange tables so that no customer is sitting within six feet of any customer at a separate table
  • lines for pickup or takeaway service must be in a separate area from the outdoor dining
  • host stands must be located at the entry of the outdoor dining area so as to prohibit patrons from unnecessarily walking through the outdoor dining area
  • alcohol may only be sold in conjunction with a meal
  • bar areas must remain closed to customers
  • patrons are required to wear a face covering except when actively eating at a dining table
  • entertainment events are not allowed

Personal services

Personal services providers, including hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, skin care and waxing services, and non-medical massage providers may provide services outdoors so long as they comply with safety guidelines:

  • Providers must only provide services by appointment only. appointments must be spaced to permit time to clean and disinfect service areas between customers.
  • Providers must call customers in advance of the appointment to:
    • Confirm that the customer has not experienced symptoms of COVID-19 during the preceding 14 days, and has not come into contact with someone who has symptoms of, or who has been tested positive for, COVID-19 in the prior 14 days;
    • Instruct the customer to come alone (unless a parent or guardian needs to accompany a minor, or an attendant needs to accompany a customer with disability); and
    • Instruct the customer not to arrive at the facility more than 5 minutes before the appointment.
  • All indoor areas except for restrooms, hand washing facilities, and passages needed to access outdoor service areas must remain closed to the public.
  • To the extent feasible, Service Providers must erect barriers to separate the customer from the service provider.
  • Service Providers and customers must wear face coverings at all times.
  • No Personal Service Provider may offer or perform any service that would require or likely lead to the customer’s removal of a face covering.
  • Dual services, in which two or more providers attend a single customer at the same time, are prohibited.

Last updated September 22, 2020


Questions? Contact covid19@cityofberkeley.info.

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