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Planning an outdoor special event

Special events in Ottawa

Outdoor special events are governed by the Special Events on Public and Private Property By-law No. 2013-232 and the Special Events on City Streets By-law No. 2001-260.

Updates: COVID-19

The permissibility of and operational requirements for special events are contingent on Provincial Emergency Orders. Public events and large social gatherings remain a highrisk activity and many activities are currently prohibited in Ontario.

On June 8, 2020, the Province of Ontario announced a regional approach to Stage 2 of reopening that includes permitting drive-in or drive-thru formats for a variety of purposes, including but not limited to: cinemas, concerts, or artistic performances. These formats are permissible provided that they are conducted in compliance with the conditions imposed under the province's regulations.

The City of Ottawa is reconvening our Special Events Advisory Team to support those wishing to execute drive-in and drive-thru events. This integrated team is comprised of multiple City Departments, including Ottawa Public Health, and will be available to review event proposals, provide guidance, and issue permits or licences to support these activities if required. All enquiries related to drive-in or drive-thru events can be directed to EventCentral@ottawa.ca.

Resource: COVID-19 Guidance for Special Events (Ottawa Public Health)

Event Central

For events big and small, the City of Ottawa is committed to providing organizers with the tools, structure, environment and processes to thrive.

The Event Central Office:

  • Is the first point of contact for event organizers wishing to host an event
  • Leads integrated planning in a supportive environment, reconciles the input of all impacted stakeholders, and ensures organizers and City services are coordinated in a manner that contributes to positive events and their safe execution
  • Facilitates event review by leveraging the expertise and experience of the Special Events Advisory Team (SEAT)

Contact us

No matter the size of your event, Event Central is available to assist you in determining what approvals are required for your event.

You can contact Event Central by email at EventCentral@ottawa.ca or by phone at 613-580-2424 ext. 14613.

Event Central
City of Ottawa
101 Centrepointe Dr
Ottawa, ON K2G 5K7

Special event permit

When to apply

The following criteria are used to determine if an event is required to complete the Application for Special Events:

  • Expected attendance of at least 500 persons at any one time
    • Examples include: fairs, festivals, competitions, or beach events
  • Any event that uses the City Right-of-Way (streets/sidewalks)
    • Examples include: parades, processions, runs, walks, or bikes
  • An event with a significant community impact

Application timelines

The application process begins with the event organizer submitting a complete application package to Event Central. At a minimum, the application package includes the Application for Special Events form, a draft site and/or route plan and a draft emergency plan. Depending on the event specifications, other supporting documentation may be required.

Notice: Event organizers require conditional approval of the event location from the property owner prior to applying for a special event permit.

The event organizer must submit the application package 90, 60 or 30 days in advance depending on the scope and details of the event.

90 days in advance of the event if the event includes:

  • Alcohol sale and/or service
  • Use and/or closure of a roadway/highway
  • Occurs on Victoria Day, Canada Day, Remembrance Day, New Year's Eve, or in alignment with an event of known significance

60 days in advance if the event does not include any of the above, but includes:

30 days in advance if the event does not include any of the above, but includes:

If the event does not include any of the factors listed, the application deadline is 30 days prior to the event.

Tip: Why wait? Event Central can initiate the review process before the application deadline! For new, large-scale events, we recommend contacting Event Central one year in advance. 

Residential block parties

Notice: The permissibility of and operational requirements for special events are contingent on Provincial Emergency Orders. Public events and large social gatherings remain a highrisk activity and many activities are currently prohibited in Ontario.

For residential block parties, complete the online Block Party application form. If you have any questions please e-mail or call Traffic Management at SpecialEventsTraffic@ottawa.ca or 613-580-2424 x28164.

Event Guide and templates

Event Central has developed several tools in collaboration with City Services to assist you in completing your application and support documents.

Serving alcohol at events

Notice: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the AGCO will continue to accept applications for Special Occasion Permits. However, permit applications related to prohibited public events and social gatherings will not be processed until after the emergency order has been lifted or modified.

Careful planning and preparation are required when there will be alcohol sales, service and consumption at an event. Alcohol licensing is provincially regulated through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The event organizer must obtain the appropriate permit through the AGCO and adhere to AGCO regulations. For information regarding types of permits and requirements, please visit www.agco.ca or call 1-800-522-2876.

Events occurring on City property must meet the conditions of the Municipal Alcohol Policy. Please consult the Guide to Serving Alcohol at your Event for more information.

Note: It is the responsibility of the event organizer to know the occupant load of the licensed area and have procedures in place to ensure that number is not exceeded.

Notification to local authorities

For outdoor events, the AGCO will require the applicant to provide notification to local authorities. To notify the municipality that you will be serving alcohol outdoors, please complete and submit the online notification form. Once you submit the form, it will be sent to the Ottawa Police Service, Ottawa Fire Prevention, Ottawa Paramedic Service, Centralized Allocations, Ottawa Public Health, Building Code Services, and Event Central. 

You will receive an e-mail confirmation from Event Central when notification is received, which you can attach to your application in the iAGCO portal.

If the event is open to the public and the applicant is neither a registered charity nor non-profit organisation, a Letter of Municipal Significance is required to obtain a Special Occasion Permit. For inquires, please contact Event Central.