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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.

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

For residential block parties, complete the online Block Party application form

For demonstrations or marches on the City Right-of-Way, complete the online Demonstration/March application form. For information on holding an event, demonstration or rally on Parliament Hill, please visit the Use of Parliament Hill webpage.

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. 

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.

  • Comprehensive Event Guide
    • Includes event requirements, best practices, templates and tips

      New sections added for 2019!

      • Accessibility
      • Crowd Management
      • Greening your event
      • Health, safety and wellness
      • Noise mitigation
      • Smoking, vaping, water pipes and cannabis
  • Emergency plan template

Serving alcohol at events

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.

Notice: 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 such as police, fire, building code and public health departments. To notify the municipality that you will be serving alcohol outdoors, please complete and submit the online notification form.

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.