What to do
About Mechanical Amusement Device permits
You need a Mechanical Amsuement Device permit if you charge your customers to use more than one mechanical game on an ongoing basis.
Examples are video games, pinball machines, or other arcade games.
Before you apply, check with us if the Mechanical Amsuement Device permit is allowed for your location.
You do not need this permit in the following cases:
- Your business is a bar - and - you have only one mechanical amusement device. A “bar” means a business that serves alcoholic beverages to people aged 21 and up to drink on the premises, and that has a state ABC license type 42, 48, or 61.
- Your business is not a bar - and - you have no more than 10 mechanical amusement devices.
1. Check to see if you can apply
Email the Deputy Director at email@example.com to find out if you can get a permit for your location, depending on zoning rules.
Include the following information in your email:
- Your business name
- Your business address
- Your contact info
- The number of mechanical games you plan on having
Wait for further instructions telling you if you can apply.
2. Submit your application
Get your documents ready
You will need to include these documents in your application:
- Entertainment Commission permit application
- Letter of Intent
- Business registration certificate
- Health Permit to operate from the SF Department of Public Health
- ABC Liquor License, if applicable
- Fire Department’s Place of Assembly Permit, if applicable
Fill out the forms and email the application and supporting documents to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Applying does not guarantee you will get a permit. We will contact you if there is an issue with your application.
3. Attend a meeting
You'll meet with our Deputy Director. At the meeting we will review the application in full with you and go over the next steps in the permitting process.
4. Pay the application fee
Pay online with a credit card or electronic check.
You can also pay by check or money order. Make payable to “City and County of San Francisco.”
We collect your permit application fee. Fees are updated every July.
The Treasurer and Tax Collector bills you separately for the annual license fee.
5. Let your neighbors know
We send your application packet to City departments for their review and approval. These include the Planning Department, Police Department, and any other relevant City departments, depending on the permit you are applying for.
You will need to do outreach to your neighbors as discussed at your in-take meeting.
If you plan on having 11 or more mechanical amusement devices, you must also post our yellow public notice at your location for 30 days and attend an Entertainment Commission hearing date. The Commission meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month.
6. Schedule any required inspections
7. FOR 11 OR MORE DEVICES ONLY: Attend the Entertainment Commission hearing
Businesses that want to have 11 or more mechanical amusement devices will need to attend a public hearing.
Commissioners may ask you questions about your plans at the hearing. They will vote on whether to approve your permit.
If you still have inspections that need to happen, you must pass those inspections before receiving the permit.
8. Post your permit
We will email you a PDF of your permit.
You must post it at your business location. Then you can begin holding the activity that the entertainment permit allows.
Renew your entertainment permit every year by paying the annual license fee to the Treasurer and Tax Collector.
Last updated August 1, 2022