Get a Mechanical Amusement Device permit for your business

A Mechanical Amusement Device (MAD) permit lets you charge customers to use mechanical or arcade games.

What to do

About Mechanical Amusement Device (MAD) permits

You need a Mechanical Amusement Device (MAD) permit if you charge your customers to use more than 1 mechanical amusement device on an ongoing basis.

Examples are:

  • Video games
  • Pinball machines
  • Arcade games

You do not need this permit if:

  • Your business is a bar and you have only 1 mechanical amusement device
  • Your business is not a bar and you have no more than 10 mechanical amusement devices

1. Decide how many machines to have

There are different requirements depending on the number of machines you want to have.

If you plan to have 1 to 10 machines and you are not a bar, you do not need a permit.

If you plan to have only 1 machine and you are a bar, you do not need a permit.

If you plan to have 2 to 10 machines and you are a bar, you will need to:

  • Pay an annual license fee

If you plan to have 11 or more machines, you will need to:

  • Pay an annual license fee
  • Pay an application fee
  • Post a public notice for 10 days
  • Attend a hearing
  • Get approval from Planning, SFPD, and an electrical inspection from Department of Building Inspection (DBI) 

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.

2. Submit your application

Get your documents ready

We will also ask you for:

You will need to include these documents in your application:

  • Liquor license, if applicable
  • Health Permit from the SF Department of Public Health, if applicable

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.

4. Pay the application fee

You need to pay the application fee only if you have 11 or more machines.

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. 

The Entertainment Commission hearing date is scheduled. The Commission meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. 

You may need to do outreach to your neighbors as discussed at your in-take meeting.

If you are applying to have 11 or more machines, you must post our yellow public notice at your location for 10 days before the hearing.

6. Schedule any required inspections

An inspection from other departments may be required. You will be given instructions at your in-take meeting.

Check inspection fees.

7. Attend the hearing

You will need to attend a public hearing only if you are applying to have 11 or more machines.

Commissioners may ask you questions about your plans at the hearing. They will vote on whether to approve your permit. 

If you apply to have 11 or more machines, you will need approval from Planning, SFPD, and an electrical inspection from DBI to check if devices are wired electrically. You do not need to submit additional applications to get approval from these departments. 

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.

Get help

Entertainment Commission

49 South Van Ness
Suite 1482
San Francisco, CA 94103

This is our office but it's not open to the public. The Permit Center is accepting walk-ins. 

Permit Center (Entertainment Commission)

49 South Van Ness
2nd floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

Open to the public Tuesdays, 10am to 12pm and 1pm to 3pm

Phone

Kaitlyn Azevedo, Deputy Director

Last updated January 11, 2023