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Reduced Parking Requirements to Allow for Outdoor Eating/Sales/Pickup

No parking iconRelaxing or suspending minimum parking standards for businesses could allow them to utilize outdoor parking lot space to serve customers safely. The additional outdoor space may be turned into eating space under tents or into outdoor retail sales area to display items that would be difficult for customers to access in small stores (more information in other sections). This would be similar to allowances given for sidewalk sales but could last for several months. Public safety officials and planning staff could sign-off on the permits through administrative review. Some towns are considering having the Board of Health issue emergency orders suspending enforcement of minimum parking requirements so that restaurants and retail businesses can use parking areas for outdoor dining or display space. For longer-term parking/seating standards changes (beyond temporary COVID-19 measures) approval by relevant boards may be necessary.


  • Maintaining adequate customer parking and safe parking lot circulation 
  • May want to limit types of retail sales that can occur, such as requiring them to be linked to an existing permitted business in the community 
  • Coordination with town and state agencies if removing or reducing on-street parking areas may be necessary

Sample administrative review checklist for reduced parking requirements to allow for outdoor eating/sales/pickup

  • Completed application with detailed sketch, drawn to scale on a map of the parking area, for review by the designated town staff with sufficient detail for staff to determine the layout, location, impacts on parking, and any safety measures proposed  
  • Adequate parking area is still available for customers (keeping in mind COVID-19 occupancy limitations will reduce the number of customers in a single location) 
  • Tables, tents, display racks, or other objects proposed in parking areas do not block entrances, exits, fire lanes, hydrants, drive aisles, back-up areas, or safe pedestrian circulation 
  • Reduced parking does not impact handicapped parking areas or handicapped access  
  • A physical barrier or separation, such as bollards or planter boxes, will protect customers from vehicle traffic both on-site/within the parking area and adjacent to the site 
  • The plan meets Fire Department standards, including points of egress, safe circulation, and access to fire extinguishers


  • Texas is allowing pop-up drive-in movie theaters in some underutilized shopping center parking lots.
  • The Town of Dennis Board of Health voted to suspend enforcement of minimum parking requirements for retail and food establishments for 18 months to allow use of parking areas for outdoor dining or retail subject to administrative review by certain town staff.
  • Many of the examples under outdoor seating, outdoor space for retail use, and temporary covered areas apply here as well since the communities are allowing outdoor uses to expand in to parking areas.


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