Sidewalk Patios & Outdoor Cafes

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What you need to know before you open

Outdoor / sidewalk cafés add to the vibrancy of street life in Downtown Medicine Hat. For an existing restaurant or bar to develop an outdoor café, various approvals are required to take into consideration any impacts to the surrounding community or streets and to help ensure the compatibility of the proposal and the safety and enjoyment of patrons.

Each situation is unique and there are a number of rules that must be met to determine whether any of the types of layouts can be accommodated, but in general the following applies:

Outdoor patios/cafés can potentially be located:
  • Wholly within private property lines (parking area and/or sidewalk)
  • Wholly on city sidewalk and/or curb lane
  • Combination of private and city property
The use of city property (sidewalk or curb lane) requires approval under the Public Roads Bylaw, which is administered by the Municipal Works Department.

Types of sidewalk / outdoor cafés and approvals required
There are three potential types or layouts that can be considered for an outdoor/sidewalk café. In terms of required approvals, development permit requirements apply to private land, and Public Roads Bylaw requirements apply to city land (sidewalk or road right-of-way), so depending on the type of outdoor café proposed, a Development Permit AND/OR Public Roads Bylaw approval may be required as indicated below.

Please note that Development Permits are not required for sidewalk patios that are completely on public property (City sidewalk / street), however, Public Roads Bylaw approval is required.




Type 1: Outdoor Café within a parking area of a use on the same private parcel. A Development Permit is required.

Type 2: Outdoor Café adjoining a public sidewalk:

A) Footprint on private sidewalk wholly within Private Parcel. A Development Permit is required. Applicant must be aware of property line.
B) Footprint on a combination of private parcel and city public sidewalk. A Development Permit and Public Roads Bylaw approval are required.

Type 3: Sidewalk Café requiring redirection of pedestrians to temporary sidewalk deck constructed in curb lane.

A) Footprint is on both private parcel and city public sidewalk, a Development Permit and Public Roads Bylaw approval are required.
B) Footprint is entirely within city public sidewalk/road right-of-way, Public Roads Bylaw approval is required (no Development Permit is required. 


Getting approved

To apply for an outdoor / sidewalk café, follow these steps:

Call 403-529-8374
to request a pre-application meeting with a Planner for a "Sidewalk / Outdoor Café." This step can confirm property lines and the "footprint" of the proposed cafes in relation to private parcel and City sidewalk area, and any status of prior approvals or conditions already in effect on a given site. The Planner can advise the applicant exactly what information besides a site plan will be required with the application.

Example Site Plan (PDF). This plan shows a sidewalk café entirely within a City sidewalk/road.

Before you submit your formal application, it is recommended that you contact neighbours who may be affected as a way to identify and address any potential concerns. At this time, it would be recommended for the applicant to determine any liquor and food regulations that may need to be complied with.

• Confirm with Alberta Health Services (AHS) that your proposed food service meets regulations, particularly if you are planning to prepare food outside.

• Confirm with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) that your proposed alcohol service meets regulations. In particular, be clear about whether or not your patio is connected to your premises or if liquor service would have to travel through an unlicensed area.

• Submit your formal application to Planning and Development Services (P&DS). P&DS will initially review the drawings and circulate the drawings to Safety Codes Services, and the Fire Department.

• If the café is partially or totally on a City sidewalk or boulevard, the application will be forwarded to Municipal Works for review / approval under the Public Roads Bylaw.

• P&DS will also circulate the drawings to the City Centre Development Agency (CCDA) for information purposes and to provide comments.

• The Municipal Works Department may contact the applicant for additional information, if required.

While waiting for Development / Public Roads Bylaw approval, the applicant should remember to ensure all Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) requirements are met, if applicable.

Approvals for outdoor cafés are granted on a temporary basis, typically from the end of May to the end of September. Be sure to re-apply before your approval lapses. Remember to read the conditions of approval for your Development Permit and/or Public Roads Bylaw approval.

If you have any questions about your approval please contact the department that issued the permit for clarification.