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This page will help you understand the steps to hosting a temporary event or pop-up in San Francisco. It is a resource from the Office of Small Business, San Francisco's central point of information for small businesses.

Choose a location

Choose a location

Before you confirm an event location, talk with community stakeholders about what you plan to do and why. Getting support from the surrounding neighborhood (merchant groups, neighbors, cultural district leaders, etc.) prior to the event is important.   

  • Identify a commercial property for your event and get permission to use it from the property owner.  

  • For an event on public park property, find out about guidelines through  SF Parks and Recreation.  

  • For an event at a Pier or the Ferry Building, find out more about holding special events at the Port of San Francisco.  

  • If the event involves a street closure or a sidewalk closure (use of extensive sidewalk; not the sidewalk fronting a single commercial storefront), find out about Street and Sidewalk Closures 

To operate a temporary use (including outdoor pop-up activities such as street food; arts and entertainment with temporary outdoor structures; a COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Use) in a commercial space, the commercial space must have the appropriate designated use (e.g. a place permitted for entertainment could host music).  

  • If the designated use (zoning) of the commercial space does not match the temporary event use under the Planning Code, a Temporary Use Authorization is required from the Planning Department.  

  • Examples:  

    • A pop-up comedy act (entertainment use) in a vacant retail storefront (retail use) would require a Temporary Use Authorization because the storefront is not designated as an entertainment use. 

    • A band playing (entertainment use) in an art gallery (arts use) would require a Temporary Use Authorization because the art gallery is not designated as an entertainment use.

    • A cupcake pop-up that wants to serve in a restaurant would not require a Temporary Use Authorization because the restaurant is already designated as a food establishment. (The cupcake pop-up would still need health permits).

Notes: 

  • The commercial space can be vacant.  If the commercial space is not vacant, it must be occupied by a legally established commercial use. The property owner (or the event host acting as the property owner’s agent) of that space must apply for the Temporary Use Authorization.  

  • If you plan to have more than 50 people at the event, you will need a Place of Assembly Permit from the San Francisco Fire Department.  

    • Check with the property owner to confirm if the space already includes this permit. If not, apply through the San Francisco Fire Department.  

    • If the space already has a Place of Assembly Permit, confirm that the occupancy load is adequate for your event. If your event will exceed the occupancy load, you’ll need to contact the San Francisco Fire Department.  

Consider what will happen at your event

Consider what will happen at your event

Certain activities may require different permits from various departments, including, but not limited to: Fire, Public Health, Entertainment Commission, and SFMTA.  

If food is sold or served at the event, (i.e. an art gallery, retail store, etc.), you will need additional permits from the Department of Public Health. Food vendors will need a Temporary Food Facility Permit. Read an overview of food at temporary events.  

The event sponsor should complete the following requirements and submit to the Health Department at least 14 days prior to the event

Notes:  

  • Even if food vendors already have general Temporary Food Facility / Mobile Food Facility (TFF/MFF) permits, they need to complete a Concessionaire application for each specific event they attend to be submitted by the event sponsor.

  • If food vendors cook with LP-G propane, butane, or open flame at the event, the event sponsor will need to complete a SFFD sponsor application and an Event Sponsor Acknowledgement Receipt 14 days prior to the event and serve as the point of contact with SFFD. The event sponsor will coordinate an on-site fire inspection on the day of the event.

  • Each food vendor utilizing LP-G propane, butane, or open flame at the event must complete a Vendor Acknowledgement Receipt.

Reminder: Any food vendor/truck associated with an event that serves food in the public right of way (sidewalk in front of the space, for example) cannot vend to the public during an event. Event participants would need to utilize tokens/tickets for food.   

If your organization is a non-profit and all of your food or beverages are donated by a permitted food facility (such as a local restaurant or a market) then the event may be exempt from these requirements. Learn more here

If alcoholic beverages are sold or served at the event, permits from the CA Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) are necessary. Learn more about ABC licenses. You will also need a permit from the Police District Station where the event is located.  

If your event includes the use of LP-G propane or butane, open flame, flammable/combustible liquids, air-inflated structure, or a large tent (over 400 sq. Ft), you will also need an operational permit from the San Francisco Fire Department. 

Prepare your space

Prepare your space

If the event space requires any construction, inspectors from the SF Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and the Fire Department will need to review the space.

  • Visit the Permit Center at 49 South Van Ness (Permit Center) or email sfosb@sfgov.org to get assistance with scheduling an inspection.

If you need a temporary “No Parking” or “No Stopping” zone, SFMTA provides temporary tow-away signs for use during special events.   

Check with SF Environment for detailed information on holding zero-waste events.