Streamlined Permit Process Supports Outdoor Service Area for Retail

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – June 2, 2020 – To support commercial business’ ability to serve patrons while also following social distancing guidelines, the City of Cedar Rapids has created a streamlined process to allow temporary outdoor service areas on private property and public sidewalk areas. This would apply to establishments such as restaurants, bars, retail, and fitness centers. Examples of outdoor services could include patio dining or merchandise display.

Businesses interested in the use of temporary outdoor service areas now have access to a simplified and streamlined approval process; applicants can receive one permit good for the rest of the year, rather than for a limited number of days or occurrences. The process builds off the 2019 zoning code update, which now allows outdoor services in a greater number of zoning districts, where previously businesses would have needed additional approvals from the Board of Adjustment.

“We recognize the many hurdles businesses are facing as they reopen while addressing health concerns related to COVID-19,” says Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt. “Cedar Rapids wants to make it easier for businesses to creatively practice social distancing, and we’re committed to helping streamline processes so retail and restaurant owners can safely reopen.”

There is no fee for processing this outdoor service application; standard permitting and fees apply to alcohol licensing. The permit would expire December 31, 2020.

Interested businesses can complete an Outdoor Commercial Services permit application online: For questions, please contact the City’s Development Services Division by calling 319-286-5836 or by emailing

Participating businesses are responsible for the following:

  • ADA accessible routes between parking, services, and restrooms will be maintained.
  • Combined occupancy of the new outdoor area and existing building does not exceed the original total occupancy of the building.
  • Minimum number of parking spaces including ADA accessible spaces are provided if private property is used.
  • Liability insurance is provided if the public right-of-way is used.
  • Businesses need to follow all State guidelines on sanitation/ limited capacity/social distancing.