Sidewalk Café Licences

Sidewalk Cafés are regulated under By-law S-1000

On March 1, 2022, Regional Council approved the waiving of sidewalk cafés license fees for the 2022 season.

Types of Sidewalk Cafés

Seasonal Cafés are licensed from April 15to November 15 in the same calendar year. Café construction CAN NOT begin until the Permission to Construct Letter is received from the Licensing office.

There are variations of seasonal cafés including:

Seasonal Unenclosed Café Lite

  • Tables and chairs are placed on the sidewalk each day and removed by closing time
  • 2.1m (7ft) of pedestrian clearance must be maintained
  • Serving alcohol is not permitted and you are not required to have a barrier around your café

Seasonal Unenclosed Café

  • Tables and chairs do not have to be removed from the sidewalk by closing time
  • Serving alcohol is not permitted and you are not required to have a barrier around your café

Seasonal Enclosed Small Café

  • A small café is a maximum of 9.29 m2 (100 ft2)
  • All sidewalk cafes licensed for alcohol must be enclosed by a barrier

Seasonal Enclosed Large Café

  • A large café is larger than 9.29 m2 (100 ft2)
  • All sidewalk café licensed for alcohol must be enclosed by a barrier

Annual Café

  • An annual sidewalk café license allows a café to be up for one calendar year. This license may be renewed prior to expiry
  • All sidewalk café licensed for alcohol must be enclosed by a barrier
Application Requirements

All applications must include:

Detailed construction drawings which are:

  • technical drawings and specifications used to specify assembly requirements for elements of the sidewalk café;
 Site plan which shows:
  • (i) the location of the sidewalk café relative to the street and the sidewalk,
  • (ii) the location of any municipal street furniture and municipal infrastructure that is located within the proposed location of the sidewalk café, and
  • (iii) the principal use of the property which has applied for the café license
 Café plan which shows:
  • the layout and size of the sidewalk café including the amount and location of furniture and exits and, if the applicant is providing a security deposit, the total frontage measured in feet that the sidewalk café fronts on each street
 Proof of insurance which must include:
  • Commercial General Liability Insurance in the amount not less than two million dollars
    • If alcoholic beverages are served or consumed at the café, “liquor not excluded” must be listed
  • The insurance must note the business name and civic address of the café
  • The insurance must cover the café for the licensed term
  • Halifax Regional Municipality listed as Additionally Insured

Written consent from the owner of the principal use property if other than the applicant or security deposit.

Fee payment

Application timeline [PDF]

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Annual Cafés

On December 15, 2020, Regional Council approved amendments to By-law S-1000, which permits seasonal sidewalk café owners to apply for an annual sidewalk café license that may not have been permitted in the past.  

What should I know before applying for an annual café?

All plans, including existing cafés that are considering no modifications, will need to be reviewed by internal staff groups including Winter Operations and Halifax Fire. This may delay approval or result in the denial of the annual license.

The business owner will be responsible for all snow removal on the patio and the temporary sidewalk. Windrows created by municipal plowing activities due to patio obstructions will also be the responsibility of the business owner. More information on snow removal may be found on the Winter Operations page.

Annual Cafés on Argyle St.

For cafés located on Argyle St., when the street is closed you are permitted to have a café extension (dependent on the street closure). Your plans must include the temporary café extensions and show measurements and the cane detectible barrier.

Preparing your plans

Accessibility Update

As of August 30, 2021, all sidewalk cafes barriers located in the typical path of travel, should be separated by a cane-detectable barrier.

A cane-detectable barrier is a physical obstruction that can be detected by a person using a cane, located at or near ground level. As per CSA B651 the physical barrier must be within 680 mm (27 inches) from ground level (see attached illustrations).

  • For cafes with post and rope barrier, a secured 2X4 on edge or 4X4 on the ground (or within 680 mm (27 inches) of the ground) between posts.
  • The detectable barrier must not protrude into the path of travel beyond the posts that enclose the café.
  • Raised patios with an open area below, greater than 680 mm (27 inches) from the ground will require full skirting or a cane detectable barrier.

If you have questions on this change please phone 311 to speak with Licensing staff.

Common Sidewalk Café Terms  

barrier means a fence, railing or other obstacle that prevents or restricts the movement or access of pedestrians;

municipal street furniture includes bus shelters, banners, flower pots, benches, waste receptacles and other decorations located in the street;

municipal infrastructure includes infrastructure that supports the provision of municipal services and includes public trees, light standards, street lights, traffic signals, traffic signs, parking meters and other municipal signs;

Things to Remember When Preparing Your Plan

Allow sufficient space for utility trucks and/or equipment to access the utility services such as water valves, manholes, located near or in the area as your sidewalk café. These utility services must be shown on the plans.

Do I need a temporary sidewalk?

You’ll need to install a temporary sidewalk adjacent to your sidewalk café if the café barrier is installed in such a way that it reduces the width of the sidewalk to less than 2.1m (7ft), including being obstructed by sidewalk cafés, municipal infrastructure or municipal street furniture.

Who do I contact if my café or temporary sidewalk requires a sign post to be removed?

Upon receipt of your Permission to Construct Letter, you will see a condition that asks you notify staff five (5) business days before the start of construction, the name and contact information will be provided in the letter. All posts must be removed by HRM staff.

List of possible items on front of the building to include in your plans (if applicable)

  • current exits (must be maintained)
  • fire department connections
  • gas connections
  • existing vents
  • communication connections
  • power meters
  • canopy
  • sandwich board (must be licensed through licensing authority and must not block pedestrian access)

List of possible items to be included in your plans along with the distance from the barrier to the item(s)  

  • fire hydrants
  • street lights
  • garbage cans
  • mail boxes
  • bicycle racks
  • bus stop benches and shelters
  • street signs (including signs to be removed) (0.15m of the base of street sign must remain in ground)
  • parking pay station  
  • trees and plants
  • benches
  • utility services, for example manholes or shut off valves (access must remain)
  • catch basins (access must remain)

Refer to the Sidewalk Café Brochure [PDF] and Sidewalk Café Brochure on Argyle/Grafton Street [PDF] for examples of the drawings and plans.

Barrier Requirements

  • Cane detectable barrier must be shown on plans (see above Accessibility Update for more information).
  • All sidewalk cafés licensed for alcohol must be enclosed by a barrier that is at least 0.9 m (3’-0”) in height, and no more than 1.2 m (4’-0”) high.
  • Barriers higher than 0.9 m (3’-0”) shall be at least 30 m (98’-0”) away from the nearest intersection.
  • The barrier shall be installed in such a way that it does not reduce the unobstructed sidewalk width to less than 2.1m (7ft), failing which, a temporary sidewalk shall be installed by the proprietor adjacent to the sidewalk café.   
  • Barrier shall be setback at least 0.45 m (1’-6”) from any municipal street furnishings.
  • Minimum barrier setback from fire hydrants shall be 1.2 m (4-0”’).
  • Barrier footings shall not penetrate the sidewalk.

Temporary Sidewalk Requirements (If Applicable)

  • Temporary sidewalks shall be guarded by a traffic barrier at ends exposed to vehicular travel.
  • Traffic barriers shall be no less than .81 m (2’-8”) in height and no more than 1.05 m (3’-6”) in height (in total of all elements).
  • Traffic barriers shall incorporate reflectors.
  • Temporary sidewalk surfaces shall be slip resistant and barrier free access. 
  • Construction details of the temporary sidewalk, includes location, dimensions of the traffic barrier / planters including material and plant height (if applicable)
  • Dimensions including the width, length and distance to municipal infrastructure or municipal street furniture.
  • Temporary sidewalk construction shall maintain existing drainage patterns and storm water runoff volumes.
  • Finish details of the temporary sidewalk (must be slip resistant finish)
  • Placement of temporary sidewalks shall not impede vehicular and pedestrian traffic movement or safety.
  • Temporary sidewalk surfaces shall not impede pedestrian movement.

Deck Requirements

  • Deck exceeding a height of 0.6 m (2’-0”) requires stamped structural design plans
  • Construction details of a café base (cannot be fastened to sidewalk)
  • Construction details of café structure includes materials, size and spacing
  • Finish details of café deck and barrier free access
  • Construction details of barrier including height (0.9 m (3’-0”) to 1.2 m (4’-0”)).
  • Location of the seating, tables and umbrella’s (approximate)
  • Decks shall not be constructed over underground services (hydro vaults, chambers, maintenance holes, manholes, valves, etc.), without prior written approval from the relevant public utility, and must provide access to the infrastructure to the satisfaction of the affected utility.
  • Decks shall be as close to the elevation of the existing sidewalk grade as possible (accommodating a level surface area and deck framing).
  • Where alternate barrier-free access to the principle use property is not available, a ramp shall be provided within the deck area to facilitate barrier-free access.


  • Plant material shall be contained within the sidewalk café.
  • Umbrellas shall be made of non-combustible material and when open, not extend beyond the sidewalk café’s barrier.

Application fees

The application fees have been waived for 2022.

All cafés must still go through the application process.
Sidewalk Cafe Fees Table [PDF]

What happens after you apply?

From March – June, the Licensing office receives a high volume of sidewalk café applications. The processing time to receive a Permission to Construct Letter will vary and we encourage business owner’s to apply in January or February to ensure you are approved before the seasonal café term which begins April 15th.

The Permission to Construct Letter is required BEFORE you can start construction. If your application is approved a letter outlining your permission to construct will be issued. You may NOT begin construction until this letter is received. Please allow a minimum of 10 days to process an application, providing all required information is received for this step.

Once you have received your Permission to Construct Letter, you may begin construction immediately (between April 15th to November 15th). If you apply early and are approved before April 15th, construction cannot begin until April 15th. 

When the café construction is complete, you must request an inspection. Please contact 311 to put in a request for an inspection. Following a successful inspection, you will be issued your sidewalk café license.

All seasonal cafés will have a follow-up inspection after November 15th to ensure all infrastructure has been reinstated and the café has been removed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who should I contact for a license to serve alcohol on the sidewalk café?
A: For approval to serve liquor on your patio contact Alcohol & Gaming by calling 1-877-565-0556 or visit Alcohol & Gaming website

Q: When can I begin the construction of my sidewalk cafe? 
A: You must wait until you receive your Permission to Construct letter, as part of the application/approval process, before you can commence construction. You may NOT begin construction or open an existing patio until after April 15.