Popup Sidewalk Dining Guidelines

Popup sidewalk dining allows temporary restaurant space on sidewalks, in on-street parking spaces or in the street.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Activated streets: Dining space activates streets with expanded seating on the streets, particularly during warmer weather.

Experimental dining: Temporary expansion allows cities to experiment with different types of expanded outdoor dining before installing permanent space.

Tips & Techniques

Getting started: Work with downtown associations and areas with street/parking space for expanded dining. Pick areas with day-use parking spaces (banking, offices) that can give way to evening dining. Determine a budget and funding sources.

Themes: Plan around different kinds of outdoor dining themes (1) Locations such as downtowns, small shopping centers, (2) Eateries such as existing concentration of restaurants, food trucks, festivals, culinary schools or a combination; (3) event-based such as street fairs, "First Fridays" or art walk nights, fundraisers, or other events.

Experiments for longer term action: Plan your popup expansions to answer different questions about longer term commitment for expanded dining such as expanding sidewalks, committing on-street parking spaces and issuing permits to restaurants. Once spaces are assigned & permitted, restaurants will expect long term use, so get the details correct. Include vendors, the Public Health Department/other agencies, and business owner groups such as Business Improvement Districts.

Growing a program: Document permitting and design attributes to build into longer term guides and manuals for outdoor dining. Expand to pop-up retail, art installations, and events.

Construction details: For temporary uses, there a balance between inexpensive design (in case the experiment is unsuccessful) and good design and diner comfort & safety. Potted plants, decking, fold-able tables & chairs, umbrellas or tents, and signage are typically used. Outdoor heaters also extend the dining season for both temporary and permanent outdoor dining uses.

Hot Buttons: Loss of on-street parking spaces & sidewalk space, adjusting regulations for short term/temporary uses (signage, food safety, parking, permitting), quality & meeting customer expectations with experimental and untested approaches. Noise and activity complaints from neighbors. Providing a level, accessible surface on typically uneven surfaces.


Popup Cafe: Design Guidelines - New York City, NY US

City of Takoma Park permit -   Takoma Park MD US

Also See Outdoor Dining