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


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).


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.


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.


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.

Liquor service

If you plan to serve liquor, you need a Special Occasion Licence (SOL) regulated by the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

Learn more about Special Occasion Licences

Here is some general information to keep in mind.

Minimizing impact on neighbours

Responsibilities of an event organizer include minimizing event impact on surrounding neighbours. Be especially considerate of neighbours if there are residents above or adjacent to the event space, or if the premise is not soundproof. Here are some general considerations that may apply to your event. Your licence may specify conditions as well.

Green considerations

Greenest City 2020 is a bold initiative that will address Vancouver’s environmental challenges and put us on the path to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. Here are some considerations to help you rethink the amount of waste, energy, and materials consumed during your event planning and activities. Let your staff, volunteers, and attendees know what you are doing to green your event and how they can help!

Other precautions and insurance considerations

Here are some additional safety precautions and insurance considerations that are part of the responsibilities of the event organizer. This is not a comprehensive list.

Contact information

Glossary of terms


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


Contact us about the licence

Kristen Lambertson
Cultural Planner


Contact us about business licences

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

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

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Arts event licence subsidy