Outdoor Space Activation and Social Zones

Overview

Increasing Outdoor Seating Availability

We’re partnering with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI), business associations and other groups to increase the availability of outdoor seating for restaurants and bars as they reopen to dine-in service.

  • Click here for a printable brochure

Special Event & Temporary Use Permits

We’re leveraging and adapting our existing processes for special event permits and temporary use permits to provide clear paths to approval of new or expanded seating areas. Recognizing that quick action is needed for our business community’s COVID-19 recovery, we’re committed to expediting our approval processes with:

  • Streamlined applications
  • Online consultations
  • Rapid response times

We want to help our local restaurants and bars recover from this challenging time.


City Commission Approval

The City Commission approved the use of existing policy tools for outdoor space activation.

Creating a Social Zone

About the Zones

A group of restaurants and/or bar businesses may – through a single coordinating organization such as a business association – request designation of a temporary “social zone” in the public right-of-way (street, sidewalk) or on City-owned property (parking lot, park, etc.).

Think of a social zone as a temporary repurposing of one of these spaces into an outdoor dining plaza or food court where individuals can dine on to-go fare – typically from nearby restaurants – in the company of other diners with appropriate physical distancing between parties.


Typical Approval Process

Here is the typical process for approval of a multi-business Social Zone Permit:

  1. Identify a coordinating organization such as a business association to serve as the social zone permit applicant. If the permit is approved, this organization is responsible for ensuring the social zone is regularly cleaned and sanitized, operations adhere to City requirements and permit conditions and facilitates communications among nearby businesses and with the City. The coordinating organization doesn't have to do this alone – responsibilities can be shared or rotated among nearby businesses – but it does need to make sure the work gets done.

  2. Identify the nearby restaurants, bars and any other businesses whose customers may use the social zone, along with an estimate of the number of users for each business during the morning, lunchtime, afternoon, dinnertime and evening. If unsure, an estimate based on 20% of normal customer volume may be appropriate. We recommend compiling this information in a table to identify the maximum number of people anticipated at any one time.

  3. Sketch a draft layout of the area(s) proposed to be included in the zone, including the boundaries of the zone, entry/exit points, layout of tables and chairs – with at least 10 feet of separation between seating groups – maximum occupancy, location of barricades and any other important features. We recommend you start with an overhead photo of the area and mark it with the needed information. Be sure to note the location of any nearby building entrances, parking lot entrances, delivery locations, loading zones, etc.

  4. Schedule a brief conversation – 60 minutes or less – with City staff for advance feedback on your proposal. We typically can schedule this within two business days. The City may invite representatives of applicable neighborhood and business associations to participate in the meeting. To initiate the scheduling process, send an email to jsolis@grcity.us or call 616-456-3318. For all outdoor seating on private property (temporary use) questions, please email abowman@grcity.us or call 616-456-3652.

  5. Engage with nearby neighbors and any applicable neighborhood and business associations about the plan. At a minimum, you need to engage with all residents and businesses adjacent to the proposed social zone and any whose access may be impacted by the zone. You need to provide some documentation of neighbor and association engagement, such as this template.

  6. Create a Citizen Access account. We use the third-party application Citizen Access for our temporary use permit for private property event permit applications. If you’re new to Citizen Access, please review how to create an account before you start your application.

  7. Submit a special event fast app with the anticipated number of users (#2 above), proposed social zone layout (#3 above), documentation of neighbor engagement (#5 above) and any other pertinent information attached.

    Special Event Fast App

  8. As the application is reviewed, respond to any requests for additional information or clarification about the plan.

  9. Upon approval, we’ll prepare a social zone permit document. An authorized representative of the coordinating organization needs to review, sign and return it to us with any necessary supplemental information before setup of the social zone can begin.

  10. We’ll set up any traffic control barricading and/or signage and any other City-supplied equipment agreed to as part of the social zone permit.

  11. The coordinating organization then may set up the remainder of the social zone equipment and features. Subject to availability, City equipment may be available for rent at a reduced rate.

  12. Once operations begin, the coordinating organization must ensure the operations adhere to City requirements and permit conditions. If the permit is approved, this organization must ensure the social zone is cleaned and sanitized regularly and operations adhere to City requirements and permit conditions. It also must facilitate communications among nearby businesses and with the City.

Adding a Social District to a Social Zone

About the Districts

Public Act 124 of 2020 authorizes the City Commission to designate “Social Districts” where alcoholic beverages sold by multiple qualified Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) licensees may be consumed by purchasers. Only contiguous licensees may participate in a district, and only after obtaining a Social District Permit from the MLCC. City Commission approval of each permit application is required before a permit may be issued by the MLCC. Click here for additional information on the program.

The coordinating organization for a Social Zone may request to add an overlapping Social District, either coinciding with the initial Social Zone application process, or as an add-on to an existing Social Zone.


Typical Approval Process

Here is the typical process for approval of a Social District:

  1. The coordinating organization for the proposed or existing Social Zone identifies which nearby qualified MLCC licensees intend to participate in the proposed Social District. (The City can provide a map and list of qualified licensees upon request.) All such licensees that intend to participate must fill out the MLCC Social District Permit application form and provide a copy to the coordinating organization (DO NOT PROVIDE A COPY OF THE PAYMENT FORM TO ANY ORGANIZATION OTHER THAN THE MLCC).

  2. The coordinating organization creates a Social District plan, including the following items:

    • An overhead photo of the overall area of sufficient clarity to identify individual buildings, streets, and other key features.
    • Overall district boundary superimposed on the overhead photo.
    • Commons area boundary superimposed on the overhead photo within the district boundaries and contiguous to each qualified MLCC licensee that intends to participate in the proposed district. The Commons Area should be shown in a distinct color (different from the overall district boundary), preferably with hatch marks.
    • Exclude from the Commons Area any areas that have been, or are intended to be, separately permitted for use by a single business.
  3. The coordinating organization submits a copy of the Social District plan and related applications to jsolis@grcity.us. The coordinating organization submits a signage plan, including the following 2 sign types and specified elements (at a minimum, wording may be adjusted, additions are okay) to jsolis@grcity.us:

    • Welcome to [District Name]
    1. Be kind
    2. No smoking
    3. Spread out
    4. Sanitize hands
    5. Mask on if difficult to distance
    6. Seek shelter if severe weather
    7. Open to public unless otherwise noted
    8. Open Sunday-Thursday 7 AM - 10PM, Friday-Saturday 7 AM - 12 AM
    9. Drink responsibly
    10. To report a non-emergency concern, call [coordinating organization phone #]
    11. To report an emergency, call 911
    • Leaving [District Name]
      1. No alcohol beyond this point
  4. City staff prepare draft City Commission resolutions to designate the district and approve the initial Social District Permit applications. (Follow-on applications can be considered separately at a later date.)

  5. The City Commission considers the resolutions.

  6. If approved, City staff forward documentation of the City Commission’s approval of the district to MLCC; and City staff forward documentation of the City Commission’s approval of the applications to the applicants.

  7. MLCC reviews the district designation and permit applications.

  8. The coordinating organization produces and places City staff-approved signage.

  9. Participating licensees obtain cups identifying the district and business names.

  10. Once a business receives its Social District Permit, signage has been placed, and identifying cups are available, the business’s customers may begin using the Social District in compliance with permit conditions, district management and maintenance plans, MLCC rules and regulations, Public Act 124 of 2020, and other applicable requirements.

Finding a Social Zone

Quick Links

Parking and Transportation Options for Visiting Social Zones

Park and Walk

We’ve provided Google walking routes directions for all nearby parking options.


Park and DASH

Park in the cheapest available lot and use the free DASH bus service to ride to the social zone. DASH bus directions are linked below for the specific parking locations. Make sure to use route 22 or route 20 if you want to use the free DASH bus service.

Center City Social Zone

Park & Walk/DASH

Area 7

$2 daily parking

301 Mt Vernon Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Area 8

$3 daily parking

325 Winter Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Area 9

$2 daily parking

250 Seward Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Scribner

$4 daily parking

309 Scribner Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions

Ramps

Louis Campau

$1.25 per half hour, $12 daily max

43 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Ottawa Fulton

$1.25 per half hour, $20 daily max

50 Ottawa Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Monroe Center

$1.25 per half hour, $20 daily max

37 Ionia Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Cherry Commerce

$1.00 per half hour, $12 daily max

41 Cherry St SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Weston Commerce

$1.00 per half hour, $12 daily max

18 Weston St SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Gallery on Fulton

$1.00 per half hour, $15 daily max

43 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions

On-Street

Monroe North Social Zone

Park & Walk/DASH

Area 7

$2 daily parking

301 Mt Vernon Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Area 8

$3 daily parking

325 Winter Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Area 9

$2 daily parking

250 Seward Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Scribner

$4 daily parking

309 Scribner Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Sixth Street Park

$1.00 per hour, 2 hour max

647 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Canal Park

$1.00 per hour, 2 hour max

941 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions

Ramps

Government Center

$1.25 per half hour, $12 daily max

300 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


DeVos Place

$1.50 per half hour, $15 daily max

238 Michigan St NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions
DASH Directions

On-Street

Bridge Street Social Zone

Park & Walk/DASH

Area 2

$12 daily parking

131 Oakes St SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Area 3

$10 daily parking

45 Ionia Ave SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Area 6

$8 daily parking

170 Cherry St SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Area 7

$2 daily parking

301 Mt Vernon Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Area 8

$3 daily parking

325 Winter Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Area 9

$2 daily parking

250 Seward Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Scribner

$4 daily parking

309 Scribner Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions

Ramps

Cherry Commerce

$1.00 per half hour, $12 daily max

41 Cherry St SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Weston Commerce

$1.00 per half hour, $12 daily max

18 Weston St SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Gallery on Fulton

$1.00 per half hour, $15 daily max

43 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions

On-Street

Heartside/Ionia Social Zone

Park & Walk/DASH

Area 2

$12 daily parking

131 Oakes St SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Area 3

$10 daily parking

45 Ionia Ave SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Area 6

$8 daily parking

170 Cherry St SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Area 7

$2 daily parking

301 Mt Vernon Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Area 8

$3 daily parking

325 Winter Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Area 9

$2 daily parking

250 Seward Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions


Scribner

$4 daily parking

309 Scribner Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Walking Directions
DASH Directions

Ramps

Cherry Commerce

$1.00 per half hour, $12 daily max

41 Cherry St SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Weston Commerce

$1.00 per half hour, $12 daily max

18 Weston St SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions


Gallery on Fulton

$1.00 per half hour, $15 daily max

43 Monroe Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Walking Directions

On-Street

Private Property Temporary Use

Using Existing Property for Outdoor Seating

A single restaurant or bar business may apply to temporarily use part of its parking lot or other outdoor space for outdoor seating based on its temporarily reduced occupancy and parking needs.


Typical Approval Process

Here is the typical process for approval of a temporary use permit: 

  1. Sketch a draft layout of the area(s) proposed to be included in the temporary use, including the boundaries of the seating area, entry/exit points, layout of tables and chairs with at least 6 feet of separation (10 feet preferred) between seating groups, maximum occupancy and any other important features. We recommend you start with an overhead photo of the area and mark it with the needed information. Be sure to note the location of any nearby building entrances, parking lot entrances, delivery locations, loading zones, etc.

  2. Gather any other necessary information, such as:

    • If you’re not the property owner, get their permission to complete the application. You can submit a permission letter signed by the owner with the application.
    • Draw any temporary signs and include dimensions.
    • Get flame-resistance certificate(s) for any tents or canopies. The tent rental company can provide the certificate.
  3. Create a Citizen Access account. We use the third-party application Citizen Access for our temporary use permit for private property event permit applications. If you’re new to Citizen Access, please review how to create an account before you start your application.

  4. Submit a temporary use permit application with the proposed temporary use layout (#1 above) and any other needed information (#2 above).

    Apply for a Temporary Use Permit

  5. As the application is reviewed, respond to any requests for additional information or clarification about the application.

  6. Upon approval, we’ll issue a temporary use permit document.

  7. Upon issuance, the applicant may set up the equipment and features included in the temporary use.

  8. Once operations begin, the applicant must ensure the operations adhere to City requirements and permit conditions.

Cold Weather Activation

Propane Heating Devices

The process to approve placement of propane heaters, fire tables, etc. in social zones is as follows:

  1. Contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at 616-456-3115 or email grfd@grcity.us to request an on-site consultation with a Fire Prevention Inspector about your proposed heating devices.
  2. Obtain written pre-approval from the Fire Prevention Inspector based on the outcome of the on-site consultation.
  3. Submit an operational permit application to the Fire Prevention Bureau.
  4. Upon permit issuance, the heating devices may be installed in the agreed-upon locations.