City of Calgary announces extended supports for patios in 2021

There’s good news on tap for bars, restaurants and cafes ­­– we are extending support to Calgary businesses by continuing to allow patios on public land, prioritizing those applications, and waiving development permit, license of occupation and temporary permission fees for the upcoming season.

The fee relief was first introduced last May and will continue into this year’s patio season, as the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and has created unprecedented economic challenges for Calgary businesses. This year’s program begins sooner to give owners ample time to prepare.

“It’s not only our citizens that are benefiting from our patio season starting a little earlier, but it’s really important for our businesses to have another year of fee relief. 2020 was hard for everyone. This gives us some optimism for 2021,” says Sonya Sharp, Leader of the Business and Local Economy team. The group’s focus is equipping businesses with resources and information to strengthen their resilience and streamlining services and processes to attract and support business opportunities. “It’s really important for The City of Calgary to take steps like this because process and fees are in our control. There are a lot of things that are out of our control. If we can alleviate this for the business community, we’re doing what we can. It also sets the bar for other cities – it helps us be competitive. If you can open up a patio faster in Calgary than in other cities, then we should be promoting that.”

Last year, this program helped more than 100 businesses by allowing patios on sidewalks and other public land and waiving the fee to make it happen. Not only does this support operators in generating more revenue, it also provides extra space needed for physical distancing through the pandemic and enlivens public spaces.

Marda Loop Brewing Co. was one of the first businesses taking advantage of The City’s extended patio applications last year. Owner Mike de Jong said the initiative was a boon for his fledgling business during hard economic times. “As soon as we got into our groove, COVID came. We worked hard to pivot with staffing, seating and we worked with very little notice. Our first shutdown was voluntary.”

Mike called The City after hearing of the new process to support local establishments for approvals of temporary patios on public lands, as well as additional measures to process applications for those residing on private property. Temporary permissions were issued at no cost for temporary patios.

By calling 403-268-5311 and talking to our planning team, Mike was in business.

“If you’re detail-oriented and have a checklist of what you’re looking for, The City’s really easy to work with. For anyone looking to re-energize their business and make a push in 2021 to have a fast rebound year, I would strongly suggest to engage The City of Calgary in conversation any way you can in regards to any extension outdoors that’s going to help your business. If there’s a parking lot, a couple of spaces that can be taken up, a sidewalk that can be extended… all it takes is a few more tables to make your ends meet. I highly suggest it.”

As temperatures warmed up, Mike says he didn’t know what to expect when he reopened. “Literally we were lined up for two weeks every day for people to get onto the patio. The community support was over-the-top exceptional. I think The City’s done a great job and should continue to lead by example… I think it’s so important for The City to support small business in this way and make things easy, as we are the backbone of the city in the business sense.

“There’s another aspect of COVID that’s harder to measure; it’s the emotional and psychological impact of this pandemic on communities and if people don’t have a place to go and have a good time then we’re going to have a lot more problems down the road. I think small business in Calgary is essential and I’m proud The City is supporting us.”

Last year, The City was recognized on a national level for cutting red tape around patios. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business acknowledged us for reducing patio fees and expediting the application for businesses to expand their patio space as part of a Golden Scissors Award recognition. They said it was a great example of how cutting red tape can make a huge difference to struggling small businesses. 

We are now accepting applications for outdoor cafes and patios for the 2021 season. For those that received approval last year, there is an opportunity to follow a reduced process with quicker approvals if they reference last year’s information. Development permits relating to outdoor cafes are prioritized and we aim to reach a decision as quickly as possible. Development permit applications are reviewed by a senior planning technician and the plans circulated to internal and external stakeholders. A notice board will be displayed on the property and decisions are advertised. Release occurs at the end of a three-week appeal period.

To apply, call 403-268-5311 or visit and use our live chat function. Our team will help you determine if you need a development permit or a temporary permission. Learn more at