Arts event licence

Photo of Jenn Bojm with Hymns From The Moon, album launch, November 2013, by M. Jolly.
Photograph by M. Jolly. Jenn Bojm with Hymns From The Moon, album launch, November 2013.

The arts event licence makes it easier to host pop-up performances in unconventional spaces, including:

  • Studios
  • Warehouses
  • Factories
  • Offices 
  • Shops
  • Wholesale spaces  

Hold events at your location up to three days per month for up to 250 people, depending on the size of your venue.

Best of all, do it with one application, one desk, one licence, and one reduced fee!

Do you need an event licence?

Events with up to 30 people

You do not need a licence, but you are responsible for the safety of your guests. We recommend that you:

If you will serve food and liquor, you need separate permits, no matter how many guests are attending your event (see "Serving food or alcohol?" below).

Events with 31 to 250 people

If you meet the requirements listed in the "Requirements and fees" tab, you can apply for an arts event licence.

How to apply

Get details on the licence application process and timeline.

1. Plan your event

Use the information guide to help plan a successful event. The guide includes:

  • Liquor service details
  • How to minimize the impact of your event on neighbours
  • Life safety information
  • How to green your event
  • Contact information for relevant agencies, government branches, and organizations
  • Glossary of key terms

View or download the information guide

2. Create an event site management plan

Use the event site management kit below to help you ensure the event space is safe and secure, and considerate of your neighbours. The package includes:

  • Safety and security plan template
  • Emergency evacuation procedures template
  • Base life safety checklist
  • Event contact sheet
  • Sample neighbourhood notification letter

Download the event site management kit (190 KB)

3. Fill out the application form

Download and print the application form (150 KB)

If you are a representative applying for the licence, please include a letter of authorization from the organization.

Drop off, fax, or scan and email your application and event site management plan (see step 2) to the Arts Event Coordinator.

Your completed application form will be reviewed by Fire and Rescue Services, Licenses and Inspections, and the Vancouver Police for life safety, security, and neighbourliness.

We may contact you for additional information or to arrange a site visit.

We will contact you when the licence is approved. You can pay by cash, debit card, credit card, or cheque.

Application processing time

Two weeks minimum. For complex applications, allow more time.

Serving food or alcohol? Get separate permits

Requirements

We welcome your application if your event meets these requirements.

Guests and staff

Up to 250 people

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services will determine the specific maximum occupant load (person capacity).

Recurrence

Up to three days per month, per building

 The BC Liquor Control & Licensing Branch allows three Special Occasion Licences per month, to a maximum of 24 per year.

Locations

In one of the following:

  • Downtown, Downtown Eastside, or False Creek
  • Any industrial or historic area
  • Commercial areas (except sites zoned C-1)

Eligible spaces

  • Artist studios (work only)
  • Production and rehearsal studios
  • Retail, including galleries and cafés
  • Factories, wholesale, and warehouses
  • Offices 

Spaces should be:

  • In the ground floor, or in the basement with a fire sprinkler system
  • On a concrete floor supported by solid ground, or a floor that is professionally certified to be structurally safe

Exits and accessibility

  • At least one wheelchair-accessible entrance
  • Up to 60 people: At least one exit with a clear path
  • 61 – 250 people: At least two exits with clear paths

All spaces require:

  • Emergency lighting in washrooms and areas leading outside
    • Single-toilet washrooms can have emergency lighting immediately outside the washroom door only if the lighting is visible under the door.
  • Exit signs
  • Signs directing occupants towards exits

Fire safety

Prepare and post the Safety and Security Plan and Emergency Evacuation Procedures.

All spaces require a fire alarm system, or a designated supervisory staff per required exit.

Designated supervisory staff will monitor entries and exits at all times, and carry out the Safety and Security Plan and Emergency Evacuation Procedures.

 The building cannot have industrial amounts of hazardous materials.

Fees

People per event Licence fee
1 – 30 n/a
31 – 60 $25.00
61 – 150 $100.00
151 – 250 $150.00

For event series, one licence fee can cover up to three event days in a 30-day period.

The arts event licence fee costs less than separate approvals from Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services, Licenses and Inspections, and Development Services.

Get funding to help pay for your licence fee

24-Hr Drawing Party at Project Space (photo by Margarete Hernandez/VANDOCUMENT)

Arts event licence subsidy

Find out how to apply for one of 10 subsidies available to events organizers until October 31, 2015 for the arts event licence fee.

Use the information guide to help plan a successful event

Download the information guide (259 KB)

Or view the guide by section, below.

Types of SOLs

Private Special Occasion Licence

  • The event is only open to members or invited guests
  • Tickets are not sold at the door

Public Special Occasion Licence

  • The event is open to public

Note The Vancouver Police Department reviews applications before SOLs are issued.

Supervisory staff

Supervisory staff are required to ensure:

  • No minors are served liquor or allowed in designated liquor service areas
  • Alcohol consumption is restricted to the licensed area 
  • The event does not exceed maximum capacity

 

Number of guests Required supervisory staff
Less than 100 
101 – 150 
151 – 200 
201 – 245

Key SOL requirements

  • Ensure all organizers, employees, and supervisory staff wear visible name tags.  
  • Post “No liquor beyond this point” signs at all exits from the licensed area.
  • Ensure servers hold a Serving It Right Certificate, are present at all times, and are on alert for minors and intoxicated guests.
  • Have "last call" 30 minutes before liquor service ends, as defined on your Special Occasion Licence.
  • Purchase all liquor through a government liquor store or another source approved by the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. See "Contacts", below.
  • Keep liquor receipts and any exemption approval on-site.

Noise

  • Notify neighbours of the event with an on-site contact phone number.
  • Ensure all activities take place inside the building unless specified on your licence.
  • Monitor noise levels and impacts outside the venue and consider ways to reduce impacts. See the glossary below for details.
  • Consider setting up multiple speakers throughout the venue instead of louder speakers on one end of the venue.
  • Direct speakers away from doors and windows.
  • Minimize sound amplification.
  • Live or loud amplified music may go past midnight if specified in your licence.
  • Ensure all guests are clear of the venue within 30 minutes of the event end time.

Doors

  • Use doors that have direct access to the street.
  • All doors and windows should be kept closed by 11:00pm except for the purpose of entering or exiting.
  • Do not allow guests in and out privileges after 11:00pm if the event site is adjacent to residential spaces.
  • Under Health Bylaw 9535, smoking is prohibited within 6 m of openings into the building (such as doors, windows, air intakes).

Parking and line-ups

  • Let guests know about the parking situation ahead of the event
  • Park legally to avoid getting a ticket.
  • Suggest alternatives to driving, such as walking, cycling, and public transit.
  • Ensure line-ups outside do not obstruct traffic or cause negative impacts to the neighbourhood.

Transportation

  • Choose event locations that are accessible by foot, bicycle, and public transportation. Communicate greenway, cycling and transit route information to staff, volunteers and attendees guests.
  • Provide sufficient secure bicycle parking where possible.

Purchasing and waste

  • Work with your venue and waste hauler to determine what services they offer for recycling or composting.
  • Provide clear instructions or signage to encourage guests to recycle.
  • Go paperless and choose electronic notices. Alternatively, talk to your printer about sustainable options.
  • Select reusable or recyclable decorative materials.
  • Choose green energy, like hydro-electricity or solar power, to meet your power needs wherever possible.

Food service

  • Choose reusable service ware, or as a second choice, products made from recyclable or compostable materials compatible with your waste hauler.
  • Reduce the amount of single-use and waste-generating items such as straws.
  • Choose caterers that offer a minimum number of sustainable options such as ingredients that are vegan, vegetarian, local, or sustainably-raised or -harvested.
  • Make tap water available to guests.
  • Work with a local charity and Vancouver Coastal Health to donate of excess food.

Safety

  • If cooking will produce grease-laden vapor, use commercial cooking and ventilation equipment as required in the Building Bylaw.
  • Use flame-resistant decorative materials.
  • Get required approvals from Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services for pyrotechnics.
  • Be certain that electrical equipment does not exceed the building’s electrical capacity.
  • Ensure food handlers have a FoodSafe certificate.
  • Place food trucks at least 3 m away from any structure or building.

Insurance

Contact your insurance company to obtain sufficient insurance coverage for your event to protect yourself and your organization.

City of Vancouver

Arts Event Licence Coordinator

arts.event.licence@vancouver.ca

Phone: 604-873-7954 or 3-1-1

Fax: 604-871-6394

Other City of Vancouver enquiries

  • Business Licence Office
  • Cultural Services
  • Fire and Rescue Services
  • Liquor Licence Review
  • Property Use Inspections
  • Vancouver Police Department

Phone: 3-1-1

Workplace health and safety

Actsafe

Actsafe is dedicated to the promotion of workplace health and safety in the motion picture and performing arts industries in British Columbia.

Phone: 604-733-4682 or 1-888-229-1455

Suite 215 – 750 Hamilton Street,
Vancouver, BC V6B 2R5

Liquor service

BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB - Victoria)

BC LCLB website

Phone: 1-866-209-2111

BC Liquor Branch

Locate a BC Liquor store 

Food service

Vancouver Coastal Health

Phone: 604-675-3800

1200 – 601 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC V5Z 4C2

Learn about food service permits for temporary events

FoodSafe Program

FoodSafe website 

Designated supervisory staff

A supervisory staff person designated to:

  • Monitor the event and the egress/exit door(s) to keep clear in case of emergency
  • Carry out the approved Emergency Evacuation Procedures
  • Ensure the allowable number of persons for the event is not exceeded
  • Check identification in case of serving alcohol

The designated supervisory staff has the responsibility for the health and safety of the people attending, working and volunteering in the event.

Egress/exit door

A doorway to provide evacuation from the floor area to an open public thoroughfare, or an exterior open space protected from fire exposure from the building and having access to an open public thoroughfare

First storey

The uppermost storey having its floor level not more than two metres above grade

Fit out

The setup of the building in which the event is taking place, which includes bringing and setting up of equipment, supplies, and decorations

FoodSafe certificate

The FoodSafe Program is a comprehensive food safety training program designed for the food service industry. FoodSafe courses are available face-to-face, online, and by correspondence, and are recognized throughout BC and across Canada as meeting the requirements for food safety training for food service industry workers.

Visit the FoodSafe website

High hazard industrial occupancy

An industrial occupancy containing sufficient quantities of high combustible and flammable or explosive material which, because of their inherent characteristics, constitute a special fire hazard. Some occupancy examples include:

  • Spray painting
  • Paint manufacturing
  • Mattress factory
  • Flammable material storage
  • Paper recycling plants
  • Tire storage
  • High alcohol content distilleries
  • Dry cleaning plants using flammable cleaning solvents

Move out

The tearing down and vacating of the event, which includes taking down of equipment, supplies, and decorations

Occupant load

A calculation that defines the maximum number of people allowed at the event in any given time, which is stated in the issued licence, based on the floor area and the width of the exits

Permitted use

A space which has the appropriate permits, such as a City of Vancouver permit that states retail use is allowed

Serving It Right

A mandatory self-study course that educates licensees, managers, and servers about their legal responsibilities when serving alcohol, and provides effective techniques to prevent problems related to over-service

Visit the Serving It Right website

Slab on grade

The floor of a building that is constructed of concrete supported by solid ground without suspended slab

Sound level

Scenario Sound measurement location
(measured 1.2 m above ground)
Allowable sound level
(3-minute Leq)
A lane or street between the event site and affected neighbour Outside the property line of the affected neighbour Day time: 70 dBC

Night time: 65 dBC

No lane or street between the event site and affected neighbour Outside the property line of the event site Day time: 70 dBC

Night time: 65 dBC

Anytime: 3 dBA above ambient sound

  • Day time is from 7:00am to 10:00pm on any weekday or Saturday, and from 10:00am to 10:00pm on any Sunday or holiday.
  • Night time is any time outside of day time hours.
  • Anytime is inclusive of day and night time.
  • dBA is a weighting system which approximates human perception to sounds of moderate intensity.
  • dBC is a C-weighting system used for lower sounds such as bass sounds.
  • Leq is an average sound level reading taken over a period of time.

Special Occasion Licence (SOL)

A Special Occasion Licence permits you to serve, sell, and consume alcohol at your event, celebration, or community festival. Licences are regulated by the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, Ministry of Public
Safety and Solicitor General, and issued by the Liquor Distribution Branch.

Get a complete copy of the laws governing this licence

Supervisory staff

A person who is responsible for ensuring that:

  • No minors are served liquor or allowed in designated liquor service areas
  • Alcohol consumption is restricted to the licensed area
  • The event does not exceed maximum capacity.

Supervisory staff is required when there is liquor service at an event. The number of required supervisory staff is based on the number of guests, and supervisory staff can play a dual role as a designated supervisory staff.

Timeline

Beginning in 2010, we consulted with members of Vancouver’s arts and culture community and public though open houses, focus groups, and surveys to help shape the pilot program. We developed principles for new set of life safety requirements for temporary performance venues, which City Council approved in 2011. Read the Council report  (110 KB).

Various City departments collaborated to develop the proposal for a pilot program over the next two years, in consultation with Vancouver Coastal Health, the provincial liquor branch, and members of the arts and culture community. Council unanimously approved the proposal in 2013. Read the policy report  (190 KB) and public hearing minutes  (80 KB).

During the two-year pilot period, 110 events over 12 locations were licensed. The majority of event licences were issued in the second year. Most events took place in neighbourhoods with strong artistic communities: the Downtown Eastside, Mount Pleasant, and Grandview-Woodland. The pilot received positive feedback and the valuable suggestions gathered led to further improvements.

In September and October 2015, staff reported back to City Council on the results of the pilot program. The policy report  (130 KB) recommended that City Council:

  • Make the pilot program permanent based on its positive results
  • Amend bylaws to:
    • increase occasional use to three days per month (six over two months)
    • add ability to license event series with reduced fee and paperwork
    • offer more flexibility to meeting life safety requirements

Following presentations from speakers at public hearing, Council approved the recommendations unanimously. Read the hearing minutes  (270 KB).

Apply to the arts event coordinator

Phone: 604-873-7954

Fax: 604-871-6394

arts.event.licence
@vancouver.ca

Contact us about the licence

Diana Leung
Cultural Planner

604-673-8278

diana.leung@vancouver.ca

Contact us about business licences

Location and mailing address
Development and Building Services Centre
Ground floor
515 West 10th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5Z 4A8

Phone: 311

Hours
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
8:30am to 4:30pm

Tuesday, Thursday
8:30am to 4:00pm

Free 2-hour parking
West 10th Ave parking lot,
between Cambie and Yukon

Arts event licence subsidy