Temporary Expansion of Restaurant Seating

Guidelines for Temporary Expansion of Restaurant Seating

Purpose: Allow food and beverage establishments to temporarily expand seating to meet social distancing requirements through administrative procedures.

Applicability: Relief from zoning code requirements for temporary expansion of seating applies to stand-alone restaurants, as well as restaurants located in shopping centers, mixed-use buildings, and strip centers. Landlord authorization is required for tenants. Approvals for temporary expansion of seating shall expire 60 days after approval. Renewal of temporary expansions shall require another review.

Application and Review Process: Planning and Development Services Department will review requests for temporary seating. The application and submittal requirements are here. Please review all guidelines outlined below before submitting your application.

For seating in the public right-of-way applicants must also submit a request to the Department of Transportation and Mobility. Tucson Fire Department approval is required for tents with any side panels greater than 400 square feet and tents without side panels greater than 700 square feet. Please check the appropriate box on the application form if proposing the use of public right-of-way or tents.

Accessibility: An accessible route must be maintained through public ways and may not be obstructed unless a suitable alternate is provided. Where a new seating area does not meet floor or ground surface requirements for an accessible route, sufficient accessible seating shall be provided in the existing seating area.

Critical Equipment Access: New seating areas, furniture, barriers, tents, or similar items may not impede access to fire hydrants, fire department connections, standpipes, fire pumps, control panels, electrical panels, meters, backflow devices, or similar equipment, devices, or connections.

Customer Management: Reservations for seating is preferred to limit patrons from gathering in a waiting area. Where reservations are not provided, sufficient space must be provided to allow social distancing. Social distancing demarcations shall be placed in plain view and enforced by the business.

Landlord/Property Owner’s Written Consent: Subject to consent and the restaurant’s conformance with these guidelines, seating areas may be expanded into walkways, sidewalks, yards, parking lots, on-street parking, and similar spaces as outlined. Written consent from the landlord/property owner must be submitted to PDSD.

Location of Expansion: New seating does not have to be contiguous to the existing restaurant footprint. However, state liquor license requirements must be followed and may affect the location of the proposed seating. If temporary extension of a licensed premise is desired, please contact the City Clerk’s office for information on that process. Expanded seating shall not impair adjacent business operations.

Permits: Improvements that involve electrical, plumbing or minor building alterations may trigger the need to obtain building or operational permits. Please review the permit exemptions web page to determine if a permit is required. If a permit is required, please submit your construction drawings here. Additional permit fees may be incurred.

Seating in a Parking Lot: Seating areas proposed in a parking lot shall not impair vehicular circulation, shall not block accessible parking spaces or aisle ways, emergency services access lanes or create unsafe circulation for pedestrians. Barriers must be erected around the seating area with a minimum five-foot clear zone provided and maintained between the barriers and tables, chairs, queueing areas, and tents. Barriers shall have a minimum height and weight similar to curbs or wheel stops.

Seating in Walkways and Common Areas: Café style seating may be located on walkways and common areas provided a minimum 6’ width is maintained beyond the seating to provide for adequate and safe pedestrian access, circulation, and social distancing.

Seating on Street Sidewalks and/or On-Street Parking Spaces: Seating proposed within the public right-of-way requires review and approval by the City Department of Transportation and Mobility. Please check the box on the Seamless Doc application and include a right-of-way use plan.

Signage: Permits for banners and A-frames are not required during the duration of the emergency declaration. If the accessible route is altered to accommodate expanded seating, signage must be provided to identify the temporary accessible route.

Tents, pop-ups, and shade coverings: Temporary tents and similar shade coverings may be used when properly located, secured, and approved. Tents with any side panels greater than 400 square feet and tents without side panels greater than 700 square feet require an operational permit from Tucson Fire Department. All other tents, pop-ups, and shade coverings, regardless of size, will require Tucson Fire Department review and courtesy (no fee) inspection to ensure proper location, stability and anchorage even if an Operational permit is not required.

Other Agency Requirements: Expansions must adhere to applicable requirements of other agencies such as the Arizona Department of Liquor License and Control regulations, the Pima County Food Code, and pandemic-related guidelines issued by the Governor, Mayor of Tucson, or Pima County Health Department.

Guidelines for the temporary use of City right-of-way:

In fulfillment of Section 4 of the Mayor’s Proclamation of May 15, 2020, and to assist with the re-opening of businesses during the COVID19 pandemic the Department of Transportation and Mobility is streamlining the application process for temporary use of Right-of-Way by adjacent businesses at no cost.

Proposals for the business use of sidewalks or parking spaces for a 60-day period will be processed without an application fee. Approvals require a showing that the plan meets the following standards:

A pedestrian pathway meeting ADA standards is maintained along the frontage of the business with a minimum unobstructed width of six feet. The Department will review the location of pinch points such as streetlight poles, traffic control boxes, hydrants, planters and other street furniture and the actual local pedestrian traffic load when considering a reduction in the standard for a proposal.

The Pedestrian Pathway and Business Use Area are dimensioned on the plan.

  • Utility boxes in the sidewalk and Fire Department Connection points are identified on the plan and adequate access is maintained at all times to these and the adjacent businesses.
  • Any proposals for use of parking spaces within the roadway require a showing that pedestrians and customers are properly sheltered from vehicular traffic.
  • Adequate provision for loading/deliveries to adjacent businesses is provided.
  • Design of the proposal provides for safe distancing and does not allow for use of the remaining pedestrian path as a waiting area for the business use.
  • Any design proposal requiring penetration of the sidewalk surface will require bluestaking for utilities and a right-of-way use permit.
  • Provision of a Certificate of Insurance listing the City as additional insured.

Contact Jim Stoyanoff at Jim.Stoyanoff@TucsonAz.gov for information and guidance.

For information on the process for more permanent use of City Right-of-Way with a traditional “TRE” please see: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/realestate/TREAPP-16.pdf

Contact Us

Contact Information

Planning and Development Services

8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
(520) 791-5550

Tucson Development Center

201 N. Stone Avenue
8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
(520) 791-5550
Note: Customer Service Counter is open for questions and customer assistance. No over-the-counter plan review.

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