Temporary Outdoor Dining

The city has developed the following guidance which includes the minimum requirements from all relevant city departments. 

City Requirements

ADA Compliance

All areas shall comply with ADA accessibility requirements. Any seating located on a public sidewalk or walkway must maintain 5 feet of clear access. Pedestrian access to and from tents or seating areas must have clearly designated access ways.

Distribution of Tables: Accessible tables must be distributed by the size and locations of space being offered. Tables that are provided for large or small groups, in different locations, services would all required to meet 5% obligation (MAAB Section 17.2). Accessible tables must be distributed by the size and locations of space being offered. Tables that are provided for large or small groups, in different locations, services would all required to meet 5% obligation (MAAB Section 17.2).

Example: A restaurant has 62 tables.10 of the tables offer light dining on the sidewalk while the remaining 52 tables are reserved for fine dining and are located on a closed street. In this scenario, 3 accessible tables would need to be provided. One accessible table would be in the light dining area and one accessible table would need to be provided in the fine dining area. The third accessible table could be provided in either area.


If you wish to install a tent, the city will require written and signed permission from all abutting neighbors. If installing a tent, a Tent Permit must be obtained from the Building Department and Fire Department.

  • A certificate of flame resistance must be submitted and approved.
  • All tents must comply with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Safety Code (527 CMR) and the Massachusetts Building Code (780 CMR sections 108, 34, 10 and chapter 24 of the International Fire Code). Tent rental companies should be familiar with codes.
  • Tents must have an approved fire extinguisher on site.
  • Exit signage and lighting may be required.
  • Tents can NOT have walls.
  • All gas appliances (heaters, grills, etc.) must meet all Fire Code and Gas Code requirements. They must be inspected if required. Carbon Monoxide detectors may be required.

Fire Prevention

  • PROPANE - Any propane to be used on-site will need to be permitted. Please contact Captain of Fire Prevention Mark Curtin for guidance and if applicable, a site inspection, at mcurtin@northamptonma.gov or by calling 413-587-1241.
  • CLEAR ACCESS - Fire lanes, exits, hydrants, fire department connections, and other features of fire protection must be kept clear. 


All temporary outdoor seating spaces must be inspected by the city’s building department prior to occupancyPlease contact Beth in the Building Department at 413-587-1271 to schedule an inspection once you've received the proper approvals. 

Responsibilities of Restaurants

The restaurant, through its owner and/or manager, is responsible for the following as it pertains to the use of the public way:

  • Adherence to the plans and documents submitted, reviewed, and approved;
  • Procurement of tables, chairs, and any other physical items that will be used in the outdoor dining area; and
  • Procurement and installation of temporary safety barriers to protect diners from vehicles and traffic (only applicable to dining areas on private property/private parking lots).

Rights of the City of Northampton

The City of Northampton reserves the right to revoke permission allowing the use of the public way for outdoor dining for the following reasons: 

  • The operation of the outdoor dining area is not in compliance with the approved plans and documents submitted;
  • The outdoor dining area is not facilitating safe passage in accordance with Americans with Disability Act requirements;
  • The License Commission, Building Department, Health Department, Chief of Police and/or their designee’s determine that the operation of the outdoor dining area is negatively impacting public health and safety.


Outdoor Dining Process

The process for outdoor dining is intended to be as streamlined as possible. Whether or not your establishment has a liquor license and/or have been operating outdoors over the past two years, you are still required to complete a new application and plan for approval for the intended use of an outdoor area.

If your establishment holds a liquor license, you are required to attend a License Commission meeting and Annie Lesko will reach out to confirm details 

If your establishment does not hold a liquor license, you will hear from Annie Lesko directly on next steps. 

For questions on this process, please contact Annie Lesko at alesko@northamptonma.gov.