Outdoor Dining

To remain in good standing with the County, restaurants with outdoor dining must apply for the necessary permits and licenses or be actively working with the County to submit an application by October 16, 2023. After October 16, the County will begin its regular zoning enforcement efforts for all outdoor dining not in compliance with the Zoning Ordinance. Please refer to the Outdoor Café Types Chart for required permits.

Arlington County’s Master Transportation Plan (MTP), a part of the Comprehensive Plan, calls for streets and sidewalks that are comfortable and interesting places that encourage people to walk instead of drive and to linger, socialize, and patronize local businesses. Outdoor cafés, whether located on private property or public sidewalks, are desirable streetscape features if adequate pedestrian movement is retained. Outdoor cafés provide activity for many hours of the day and are increasingly seen as business essentials by restaurants.

Outdoor cafés can bring benefits to both businesses and customers, including creating an inviting atmosphere for people to gather, having extra seating during peak hours, and improving storefront visibility. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changed how the community uses public spaces and how it views outdoor dining. It’s important to recognize the need for flexibility for the restaurant community. As a result, the County initiated the Future of Outdoor Dining (FOOD) Study of its current outdoor dining regulations and guidelines to provide restaurants in Arlington the opportunity to expand their outdoor dining space on both private and public property. In July, the County Board voted to adopt Zoning Ordinance amendments and a new County Code chapter that allow for more administrative review processes for outdoor dining due to the expiration of the emergency order and the Continuity of Government Ordinance (COGO).

Below you will find the steps and resources needed to comply with the new zoning regulations for outdoor cafés. 

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 Design Guidelines  How-to Videos  Permit Arlington
 Review Outdoor Dining
 View instructions on 
 submitting your application.
 Visit Permit Arlington to submit
 your license/application. 


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 FAQs  Resources
 View a list of frequently
 asked questions. 
 View a list of links and
 resources for outdoor dining.


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