Temporary Outdoor Seating Area Permit

TOSA Updates + Reminders: Tents, Heaters, & Occupancy  Nov. 17, 2021

Updated Guidance on Occupancy + Alcohol Sales in TOSAs  June 25, 2021

Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSAs) are newly created or expanded exterior spaces at restaurants, bars, or cafés.

Beginning July 2020, for restaurants with an approved TOSA, the combined indoor and outdoor patrons served by an establishment at any given time cannot exceed the indoor capacity (or indoor + outdoor capacity if a certificate of occupancy is on record for the outdoor café). 

For businesses interested in serving alcoholic beverages, an approved County TOSA Permit is required to apply for a second permit from Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control Authority(VA ABC).

To report concerns about possible non-compliance issues in public spaces, submit an online report here. County enforcement teams will follow up. Using the online form is the preferred alternative to calling the County’s non-emergency number or the COVID-19 information line.

TOSA Permits Extended Through 2021 Outdoor Dining Season

The County is continuing to permit TOSAs at least through the end of 2021. TOSAs were established to help restaurants and business establishments expand outdoor seating capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the TOSA program may extend even longer, the County currently expects it will extend at least through 2021.

As the Governor adjusts COVID-19-mitigating rules and guidelines, the regulatory landscape for restaurant, bar, and café operations continues to evolve. Effective May 15, the Governor approved updated guidance to allow seating at bars, and alcohol sales beyond midnight. Additionally, current rules requiring all parties to be separated by at least 6 feet will be eased, effective May 28. After that, physical distancing limiting indoor occupancies will no longer apply, although consumer preferences may continue to trend towards outdoor dining.

While TOSAs remain in effect, the combined indoor and outdoor patrons served by an establishment at any given time cannot exceed the indoor capacity (or indoor + outdoor capacity if a certificate of occupancy is on record for the outdoor café). 

Alcohol sales in temporary outdoor seating areas are regulated by Virginia ABC and may or may not be extended once the Governor’s Executive Order has expired. As guidance from the Governor’s office and Virginia ABC changes, restaurants and businesses are required to follow the applicable rules. 

Existing TOSA Permits

  • Businesses with approved permits can continue to operate their TOSAs through the end of 2021 (with the same number of seats and seating configuration).
  • Businesses with existing permits that want to make changes to an existing TOSA (potentially in response to changes in the Governor’s Executive Orders) should submit a new Temporary Outdoor Seating Area Permit Application to TOSA@arlingtonva.us, and clearly note the existing TOSA approval # in the application and email transmittal.

New TOSA Permits

Eligibility

  • All existing restaurants, bars, and cafes with a valid certificate of occupancy may apply.
  • Existing outdoor seating is not a prerequisite.
  • Expansion of an existing outdoor seating area requires a TOSA Permit for the expanded area.
  • Existing, permitted outdoor seating areas that are not expanding do not require a TOSA Permit.
  • Rooftop spaces are not eligible.

Design & Operation Requirements

  • TOSAs must be contiguous with or within 100 feet from the subject restaurant.
  • Seating capacity for outdoor dining may be approved for capacity as listed on the approved Certificate of Occupancy.
    • For businesses with only an Indoor Certificate of Occupancy (CO), the total patrons served at any one time either indoor and/or outdoor cannot exceed the capacity on the Indoor CO.
    • For businesses with both an Indoor CO and an Outdoor CO, the total patrons served at any one time cannot exceed the combined capacities stated on the Indoor CO and Outdoor CO.
    • Given continued physical distancing requirements of six feet between parties during Phase 3, achievable occupancies may be below that stated on the COs.
  • Tables and seating areas must be spaced at least six feet apart.
  • Public sidewalks must allow a minimum of six feet for accessible pedestrian passage. Alternatively, parking lanes may be used as noted below.
  • Where appropriate, repurposing parking lanes may add flexibility.
    • Closure of curbside parking to accommodate pedestrian travel may be considered. However, given the need to maintain accessibility in the pedestrian network, priority will be given to neighbors who have coordinated a plan with a uniform treatment across a block.
    • Alternatively, the use of a parklet for outdoor seating may be considered. However, given the need to maintain safety for all patrons, additional physical barriers and review of these proposals may be required
  • TOSAs may not impede existing fire lanes, access, egress, FPE, hydrants, etc.
  • The layout should minimize encroachment into active public gathering areas or spaces utilized for other public events or programming.
  • All tables, chairs, and barriers must be placed on a paved and flat surface and should not impact any utilities, parking meters, signs, street lights, or street trees.
  • A five-foot-wide clear path should be provided from the building entrance to the curb to maintain delivery and curbside pick-up operations.
  • Umbrellas, canopies, or awnings should not hang over adjacent clear paths designated for public circulation.
  • Establishments must meet the mandatory requirements outlined in Virginia’s reopening plan. View Forward Virginia: Restaurant and Beverage Service requirements and guidelines.
  • Establishments serving alcohol must meet requirements outlined by Virginia ABC.
  • TOSAs involving an ABC permit may not be shared by multiple establishments.
  • Live entertainment, gaming activities, TVs, and piped-in or amplified music are not permitted.
  • Furnishings and any physical improvements must be temporary in nature and should not require a building permit or the like.
  • Pathways to/from restroom facilities must be clear and accessible.
  • Alcohol sales within a TOSA are permitted between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily.

Additional Guidelines for TOSAs on Public Sidewalks

  • Expanded or new TOSAs may extend into the public sidewalk provided that all tables are spaced a minimum of six feet apart.
  • All tables, chairs and barriers must be placed on a paved and flat surface and should not block entrances, exits, fire lanes, hydrants, sprinkler connection points, drive aisles, pedestrian or handicapped access.
  • All tables and associated furnishings must fit within the existing streetscape and should not impact any utilities, parking meters, signs, street lights or street trees.
  • A five-foot-wide clear path should be provided from the building entrance to the curb to maintain delivery and curbside pick-up operations.
  • Umbrellas, canopies, or awnings should not hang over adjacent clear paths designated for public circulation.
  • A minimum six-foot-wide ADA-accessible sidewalk must be maintained for pedestrian passage.

Additional Guidelines for TOSAs within On-street Parking Lanes

  • TOSAs may extend into on-street parking lanes to create a “parklet” enclosure for a TOSA while providing the necessary ADA accommodations and six-foot minimum clear width of the public sidewalk. A “parklet” must provide crashworthy vertical protection (provided by the business) to the seating area.
  • TOSAs may extend into on-street parking lanes when they are coordinated with other TOSA applications to allow for a conversion of the on-street parking lane for an entire block where an on-road bicycle lane separates the travel lane from the parking lane. The TOSA area should be physically separated from the bike lane by a simple fence.
  • Individual TOSAs for each establishment will need to be physically separated.
  • Physical barriers, except for a “parklet” setup, will be provided by the County. Installation will be scheduled upon approval of the permit. Lead time depends on resource level and weather.
  • All tables and associated furnishings must not extend beyond the established TOSAs.
  • All tables must be spaced a minimum of six feet apart.

Additional Guidelines for TOSAs in Public Spaces (plazas, courtyards, parks)

  • TOSAs may expand into public plazas or areas with public access easements provided that all tables and chairs are spaced a minimum of six feet apart.
  • The layout of TOSAs should minimize encroachment into active public gathering areas or spaces utilized for other public events, programming, and/or egress. The County has the authority to limit TOSA size in this event.
  • All tables and associated furnishings must fit within the existing space not requiring relocation or removal of major design features, trees, plantings, etc.
  • All tables and associated furnishings must be placed on a paved surface and should not block entrances, exits, fire lanes, hydrants, sprinkler connection points, pedestrian or handicapped access.
  • A minimum six-foot-wide sidewalk must be maintained for pedestrian passage.

Additional Guidelines for TOSAs in Private Property Areas

  • TOSAs may be located in outdoor private property areas (i.e. plazas, courtyards, etc.) with owner’s permission.
  • TOSAs may be located in off-street parking spaces in outdoor parking lots on private property with owner’s permission when parking lot is not exclusively controlled (leased) by the business.
  • Tables, chairs, and associated furnishings must be placed on a paved surface and should not block drive aisles, fire lanes, or entry/exit points to a building or parking lot.
  • If possible, TOSAs should be located in the corner of a parking lot to minimize conflict between pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

Additional Guidelines for Coordinated Pedestrian Circulation

  • Curbside parking spaces within the public right-of-way may be used for pedestrian circulation when permitted by the County with the provision that necessary and appropriate safety and ADA accessible accommodations are maintained.
  • This new circulation zone must be protected from the adjacent travel lane through the installation and maintenance of traffic barricades, wheel stops and/or flexible bollards as approved by the County.
  • Temporary pavement markings and signs could also help define paths for social distancing and zones for curbside pick-up and delivery.
  • A minimum 6-foot-wide ADA-accessible pedestrian pathway should be maintained for public passage. If the pathway leads pedestrian to traverse a curb, proper ADA ramps must be provided.

 

Submission Requirements

Include supporting materials with your application:

  • A depiction of the existing site, including an aerial map, photographs, and if available, a survey plat, drawings or plans.
  • A depiction of the proposed TOSA, including a plat or site plan that shows:
    • Site conditions, including any streetscape items (tree pits, light poles, hydrants, fixed benches, parking meters, etc.)
    • Dimensions of TOSA (length x width)
    • Distance between TOSA and restaurant entrance (must be less than 100 feet)
    • Number and location of tables and seats (min. six-foot distance between tables)
    • Points of access/egress
    • Location of barrier surrounding TOSA (required if alcohol consumption is proposed)
    • Dimension of clear sidewalk for pedestrian passage on public sidewalks (min. six feet)
    • Other temporary elements such as tents, canopies, umbrellas, planters, etc.
    • Portable outdoor heaters, if any
    • Any parking restriction requests (this may result in an accompanying TROW permit)
  • If applicant has access, include a copy of existing Certificate of Occupancy and Capacity Certificate for interior restaurant (seating chart not required).
  • If applicable and applicant has access, include a copy of existing Certificate of Occupancy, Capacity Certificate, and seating chart for outdoor dining area.
  • If the creation or expansion of the TOSA will be located on private property not currently controlled by the business, provide a Statement of Consent from the property owner to include owner’s name, title, address, phone number, and email.

Each TOSA application should be submitted as a separate email.

Review Process and Approvals

TOSAs will be administratively reviewed and will not require approval by the County Board, even if located on sidewalks or other public property.

  • Applications received for TOSA on private property:
    • The County will issue a temporary approval in an expedited timeframe. This approval can be used to apply for a VA ABC Permit if the establishment proposes to serve alcohol.
    • Use of TOSA may begin while the County completes the review process. VA ABC approval is required to begin alcohol sales, if applicable.
    • Successful applications will be issued a TOSA Permit along with any applicable accompanying County permits.
  • Applications received for TOSA on public property:
    • The County will complete a review of applications on public property and notify applicants if a temporary Right-of-Way Permit or other permit application is required. The review of both will happen concurrently to meet faster turnaround times.
    • Successful applications will be issued a TOSA Permit along with any applicable accompanying County permits. This approval can be used to apply for a VA ABC Permit if the establishment proposes to serve alcohol.
    • Use of the TOSA may begin after the County completes the review process.
  • Applicants will receive a permit placard by email.
  • Placards must be printed by the applicant and posted in a visible location at the TOSA.

Fees

The County is not charging any fees to review and process TOSA applications.

Expiration and Terminations

  • TOSA Permits may be revoked at any time for non-compliance with TOSA Operation Requirements.
  • VA ABC TOSA Permits to serve alcohol are valid while the Governor’s Executive Order 61 and Executive Order 62 remain in effect.
  • Arlington County’s TOSA Permits are valid until the County determines otherwise. They will be subject to periodic review, and may be terminated at any time, especially if detrimental impacts to neighboring properties and the broader community cannot be effectively mitigated.
  • Failure to comply is a class one misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,500, or jail sentence up to 12 months.

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