Outdoor Dining Guidelines

Restaurant Guidance for Active, Safe and Vibrant Streets

The City of Norfolk is pleased to offer restaurants in Downtown the option of using public sidewalks for outdoor dining areas, where you'll find a wide variety of outdoor dining arrangements, signage and seating styles. In 2019, the Downtown Norfolk Council worked closely with city staff and designers to create an easy-to-read and helpful guide for restaurant owners that can help simplify the process of creating an enjoyable outdoor dining experience. 

These Design Guidelines are intended to ensure two important factors are considered: that restaurants use the public right-of-way for outdoor dining in a way that is safe for all users of the public way, and that the dining areas are visually appropriate for Downtown Historic Overlay District. The Guidelines provide standards for the use of outdoor dining areas in Downtown Norfolk in order to enhance the historic character, visual quality and pedestrian safety of the area while contributing positively to the vibrancy of street life.

Some of the topics addressed include:

  • Identifying the right dining and seating arrangement
  • Laying out the perimeter and what kind of barrier a restaurant might need
  • Selecting high quality, all weather furniture and fixtures
  • Landscaping with pots and plants
  • Adding lighting, signage and shade structures to a dining area
  • Building and maintaining a seasonal parklet

For more guidance and to apply for a permit to create an outdoor dining area, please contact the City of Norfolk's Department of City Planning at 757-664-4752 or planning@norfolk.gov. The City of Norfolk process can include the following:

  • Public Right of Way and Encroachment Process
  • Architectural Review Board
  • Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Permit

See the Guidelines.