Frequently Asked Questions

A Special Events Permit is required for public or private event activity on public or private property that has impact to surrounding neighborhood or requires substantial public services, including:

  1. Any event planned to be held in a park or other public place that meets the following criteria:
    1. The activity is reasonably expected to cause or result in more than fifty people gathering in a park or other public place; and
    2. reasonably expected to have a substantial impact on the park or other public place; and
    3. requires the provision of substantial public services; and
    4. The event will require the temporary closure or exclusive use of a public place or waterway; OR
  2. Any event planned to be held on private property that meets the following criteria:
    1. Is reasonably expected to cause or result in more than five hundred (500) people gathering; and
    2. Is reasonably expected to have a substantial impact on public or neighbors; and
    3. Is reasonably expected to require the provision of substantial public services; OR
  3. Any other planned event in a park, other public place, or private property if the event organizer requests the City to provide any public services in addition to those that would normally be provided by the City in the absence of the event.

If you have questions about whether or not your event requires a Special Event Permit, contact the Special Events Office at 206-684-8017 or specialeventsoffice@seattle.gov

Special Event Application forms are online here.  Follow the instructions to complete and submit the Special Event Application to our office.
If you have questions about the forms or the process, contact our office at:
Special Events Office
specialeventsoffice@seattle.gov
206-684-8017
700 5th Ave, Suite 5752
Seattle, WA 98124

Special Event Categories are defined as follows. Choose your event category based on this criteria. Events categorized as Commercial or Athletic also pay a Police Department Fee for officers assigned to the event (see "What does it cost?" section). Events categorized as Mixed Free Speech may pay Administration Fees, Police Department Fees, or actual cost recovery for support resources. The Special Event Committee has the authority to reassign events to categories based on review of the event activity.

Community Event
The Community Event category is for events with the following characteristics:

  • Free and open to all members of the public
  • Provides a public benefit and/or stimulates economic or cultural activity within a neighborhood or business district
  • Organized by neighborhood-based, community-based, ad-hoc groups, or groups that do not have a geographic base
  • Event has received a government grant (not including sponsorships) to produce the event
  • Organized by a non-profit entity; or
  • Anticipated to require less than 300 hours of police officer time

Parade Event
The Parade Event category is for events with the following characteristics:

  • A "fixed point parade" (with defined start and end points) held in public right-of-way with vehicles, animals, and/or other participants
  • Free and open to all members of the public
  • Provides a public benefit and/or stimulates economic or cultural activity within a neighborhood or business district
  • Organized by a non-profit entity; or
  • Anticipated to require less than 300 hours of police officer time

Commercial Event
The Commercial Event category is for events, produced by either for-profit or non-profit entities, with the purpose to promote, for monetary profit, gain or advantage, a business, product, service, commercial performance, venue, professional or college team or similar organization, or current or future for-profit event conducted by a private person or entity regardless of such person or entity's profit or non-profit status. In addition, commercial events have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • May or may not be open to all members of the public
  • Controlled or ticketed entry (e.g., tickets, pay-upon-entry, or suggested donation posted at entrance)
  • Event name features the name of a for-profit or non-profit business or organization
  • Event is concentrated around a single storefront, building, or is an extension of activity within a store or place of business (such as a grand opening)
  • Event is primarily to raise or solicit funds whether for profit, for non-profit fundraising, or otherwise

Athletic Event
The Athletic Event category is for events, produced by either for-profit or non-profit entities, with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • A gathering of people, many of whom participate in an athletic activity, sport, or in physical exertion including running, bicycling, swimming, and other race, recreational, or competitive contest
  • Participation in the event typically requires individual or team registration and/or a type of payment or entry fee (such as registration fee)
  • Participation is not generally not free or open to all members of the public
  • Event is primarily used to raise or solicit funds whether for profit, for non-profit fundraising, or otherwise

Free Speech
The Free Speech Event category is for events other than commercial, athletic, community, or citywide events that consist solely of expressive activity and do not include any non-expressive or commercial activity such as commercial food or sales vendors. Free Speech Events may include march, demonstration, and/or rally components.

Mixed Free Speech
The Mixed Free Speech Event category is for events other than commercial, athletic, community, or citywide events that include expressive activity and also include non-expressive or commercial activity such as commercial food or sales vendors. Non-expressive activity includes recreation, competition/contests, spectator sports, athletic events, circuses/fairs/carnivals, food-related activities, sales/trade shows/business promotions, beach/park clean-ups, and training activities.

Citywide Events
The Citywide Event category is assigned to an event by the Special Events Committee.  Five annual events are currently categorized as Citywide Events:  Femont Solstice Parade, My Macy's Holiday Parade, Seafair Weekend (hydroplane races and Blue Angels), Seafair Torchlight Parade, Seafair Summer Fourth on Lake Union. The Citywide Event category is for events with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Event can be viewed outside of the immediate footprint or boundaries
  • Event is expected to draw a significant citywide and/or regional crowd
  • Over 300 police officer hours estimated to be assigned to the event
  • Event is a recurring event held in Seattle for at least 15 of the last 20 years
  • Event is a celebration of local, regional, or Federal holiday
  • Event is a celebratory parade or event for local team winning a major national competition

Event would not typically be defined in Athletic, Commercial, Free Speech, or Mixed Free Speech categories

Event planners should give themselves as much time as possible by submitting their applications as soon as event plans are known. Even as much as one or two years in advance is not too early.

The application process generally takes at least three months or more depending on the complexity of the event, extent of community notification, and the number of departments that require review.

The Special Events Committee expedites the permit application process for proposed time-sensitive constitutionally protected free speech events.

Special events should not be advertised until the Preliminary Permit is issued.

90 days in advance of the event date
Submit your Special Event Application at least 90 days in advance of the event date. Applications submitted later are subject to late fees. 

60-90 days in advance of the event date
The Special Events Office will communicate with you and initiate communication between you and Committee representatives.  If there are no objections to the activity from the Committee, the Special Events Office will issue Preliminary Permit approval of the event conditional on all organizer and departmental tasks, permissions, licensing, permits, and other items being met.

30-60 days in advance of the event date
Neighbor communication, notification, and sign offs are due.  Vendor lists are due.  Insurance documents are due.  Permit fee payment is due.  Vendor lists are due.  All other applications for permits/licenses are due

15-30 days in advance of the event date
Once all items are complete from the organizer, Committee representatives, and permitting departments, the final Special Event Permit is issued.

For events taking place on or after January 1, 2016, Special Event Permit fees are assessed in a fee-for-use structure with three categories:  Application Fee, Administrative Fee, and Police Department Fee.  Payment of the Special Event Permit Fee is due prior to the event date.

To assist event organizers with advance cost planning, the Special Events Office created the Fee Estimator and Fee Estimator Instructions document available online here.  If you have any questions about the billing process or how to pay, contact the Special Events Office at 206-684-8017 or specialeventsoffice@seattle.gov.

$75 Application Fee
Applies to all Community, Parade, Commercial, Athletic, and Citywide events
Due with Application submission.  The $75 Application Fee is non-refundable and payable prior to application distribution to the Special Events Committee.  The Application Fee is waived for Constitutionally Protected Free Speech events.

Administrative Fee
Applies to all Community, Parade, Commercial, Athletic, and Citywide events*
The Administrative Fee is based on (1) the footprint in public right-of-ways (excluding Parks and Seattle Center) measured by the type of street, number of streets, and length of time streets are occupied/closed to the public; (2) the number of commercial vendors attached to the event (excluding vendors on Parks and Seattle Center property); and (3) the number of alcohol sales areas at the event.

Police Department Fee
Applies only to Commercial and Athletic Events*
Commercial and Athletic event organizers are required to pay $67 per hour per officer (two hour minimum) for Seattle Police Department officers providing traffic control or safety/security services at the event.  Number of officers and amount of officer time is determined in advance by the Special Events Committee in consultation with Seattle Police Department and event organizer.

Other Fees
Event organizers also pay related costs directly to City departments and other agencies including but not limited to Parks Use fees, SDOT Lost Revenue fees, Fire Department fees, licensing fees, King County Metro or Health fees, and hourly staff/inspection fees.  Late fees may also be assessed to applications submitted within 90 days of the event date.

Discounts
For annual events taking place in materially the same time, place, and manner as the previous year, a 25% discount will be applied to the right-of-way portion of the Administrative Fee (not applicable to vendor, alcohol, or police department fees).

If the same event took place in 2015 and sees an increase in fees in 2016, the fee increase will be discounted by 50%.

Other Costs
Permit, license, and other fees may also be charged directly by Parks & Recreation, Department of Planning & Development, Department of Transportation, Seattle Center, King County Health, King County Metro, Washington State Liquor & Cannabis Board, or other agencies with permit fees or cost recovery charges.

*Administrative or Police Department Fees may be assessed to Constitutionally Protected Free Speech Events for any commercial activity not intrinsically intertwined with the free speech message that is part of the event.

The Special Events Office will distribute your application to all departments and agencies on the Special Events Committee for review and approval of the activity.  You can contact any Committee member any time via the contact list online here, but you are not required to communicate directly with everyone because that is done through the Special Event process.  However, there are several departments and agencies you must contact directly for permits and licenses, including:

  • Parks Department:  A Parks Use Permit is required in addition to the Special Event Application for all activity taking place within a City Park.
  • Fire Marshal:  Public assembly permission from the Fire Marshal is granted as part of the Special Event Permit.  Additional permits from the Fire Marshal may be required for other activity including tents over 400 s.f., canopies over 700 s.f., open flame cooking, pyrotechnics, fire performances.
  • Business Licenses:  The organization obtaining a permit is required to obtain a Seattle Business License.  Business Licenses or a Banquet Permit are required for all vendors involved with the event. 
  • Temporary Noise Variances:  A Temporary Noise Variance (TNV) permit may be issued for outdoor off-hours amplified sound at your event.  The TNV allows you to vary from the limits of Seattle's noise control code under specific circumstances.  The TNV requires event organizers to provide specific and detailed information about the amplified sound, equipment components, monitoring capability and personnel, and outreach/mitigation to impacted neighbors.

The Special Events Committee is comprised of over 20 government agencies including Police, Fire, Health, Metro, Parks, Liquor Enforcement, who are ordained by law to review and regulate events coordinated through the Special Event permit process.  Full list with contact information is available online here.

The Special Events Committee meets every month at the Seattle Municipal Tower in downtown Seattle.  Full meeting calendar is available online here.

The Special Events Committee reviews event requests based on time, place, manner, and safety.  Event requests can be declined by one or a combination of all criteria.  Below are some primary reasons for declines.  Contact the Special Events Office for more information.

  • Date conflict with another event
  • Location conflict (overlapping footprint, abutting footprint) with another event
  • Seattle Police Department or other agency resources are not available
  • No appropriate location for event activity is identified
  • Surrounding construction or other impacts are too great to host an event in the area
  • Event location or date conflicts with the City's Holiday or other moratoriums

The City's Special Events Chair will inform you if you are required to present in person at a Special Event Committee Meeting.  Committee meetings are held monthly at the Seattle Municipal Tower in downtown Seattle.

You may need to appear if you are a new promoter, if wish to stage a new and/or complex event, if there are major changes to your event from previous years, if substantial public resources are required for your event, or if you have been cited for deficiencies in previous events. At this meeting, the Committee will inform on what is required to obtain your permit; for example, number of barricades, security requirements, health requirements for food handling, traffic control plans, etc.

The Special Events Committee is comprised of government agencies including Police, Fire, Health, Metro, Parks, Liquor Enforcement, ordained by law to review and regulate events coordinated through the Special Event permit process.

Be prepared to answer questions about your event including specifics on your site set up, security plans, number of volunteers, portable restrooms, parking and traffic plans, neighborhood communication, and other key elements of the event.  Additionally, the City's Special Events Chair or Coordinator will inform on specific items that will be reviewed as needed.

You may be asked to bring key planners with you to the presentation, such as alcohol service providers, safety and security managers, staging or other key vendors.

The City's Special Events Chair or Coordinator will also inform you on what specific documents to submit for the presentation.  In general, submit or bring any information that was not attached to your application (i.e., news release, public notification, new maps or layout, etc.)

If you are able to submit digital copies 5 days prior to the presentation date, the Special Events Office will provide copies for Committee members.  Otherwise, bring 25 copies of your materials for distribution to the Committee members.

Demonstrations that meet the definition of a special event (see "Do I need a Special Event Permit?" above) require a Special Events permit.  If you meet those definitions, complete and submit the Special Event Application. 

The $75 Application Fee is waived for all constitutionally protected free speech events.  Free speech events that have commercial activity that is not inextricably intertwined with the message of the activity may be assessed Administrative Fees or actual cost recovery fees.

City Parks:  A Parks Use Permit may be required to assemble in, pass through, or terminate a parade in a park. If you want to conduct a rally or protest in a park, call the Park Scheduling Office to determine if anyone else is using the site where you want to protest. Parks & Recreation charges a fee for all constitutionally protected free speech activity permitted in a City Park.  Parks Use Applications are online here.

Seattle Center:  Permission from Seattle Center is required to assemble in, pass through, or terminate a march on Seattle Center campus.  Additional fees may apply.  Contact and other information is online here.

Private or Non-City Property:  You must obtain permission for your activity directly from the property owner.  Contact the Special Events Office if you do not have contact information for other government agencies.

If you want to demonstrate at someone else's event, exactly when and where you can demonstrate depends on the event organizer's permit. If they have reserved exclusive use of an area, you may request a permit to demonstrate at a nearby area. The Special Event Office can help you schedule and locate your demonstration/event.

No.  The company or individual organizing the event is responsible for renting and setting up no-parking barricades to prevent parking in accordance with your Special Event Permit.  Information on barricade requirements and sign rental companies is available online here.

A Parks Use Permit is always required for event activity in a City Park.  You will also need a Special Events Permit if:

    1. The activity is reasonably expected to cause or result in more than fifty people gathering in the park; and
    2. The activity is reasonably expected to have a substantial impact on the park or in the neighborhood outside the park; and
    3. The activity requires the provision of substantial public services;  OR
    4. You request the City to provide any public services in addition to those that would normally be provided by the City in the absence of the event.

Activity in City Parks requires a separate Parks Use Permit.  Some Parks have access to water and electricity.  Some Parks have vehicle access options.  Some Parks have weight or other set up restrictions.  Staging or other event set up or equipment may be available for your event.

For information on these and any other Parks related questions, contact the Parks Event Scheduling Office:

Parks Scheduling Office
Kyle Griggs
kyle.griggs@seattle.gov
206-684-4080
http://www.seattle.gov/parks/reservations/permits.htm

The City requires $1M General Liability Insurance coverage naming City of Seattle as insured for all Special Events.  Additional coverage is required for pyrotechnics, alcohol service, bouncy houses, exotic animals, and other activity.  Complete information on insurance requirements is available online here.

Insurance may be purchased from any independent insurance agent or broker. Insurance must be filed with the Special Events Office and the City's Risk Manager no less than 30 days prior to the event.

For more detailed information, contact Keith Ayling, Risk Management, at (206)386-0071 or at keith.ayling@seattle.gov

The Special Events Office maintains a list of special event permitted through the Special Events Permit process available online here.

A list of all events in Seattle is available on the Citywide Event Calendar here.

If you have questions about event conflicts on specific dates you are considering for your event, contact the Special Events Office directly.