Terms and definitions

Dictionary

Activities on False Creek

Are you planning activities that will take place on False Creek, and which may impact the regular activities by commercial or public traffic? Depending on the nature of the activities, you may need to get approval.

  • Water activities do not include things such as swimming events, because they do not take place on areas of the water that would be used by boat traffic or involve a large number of vessels.
  • Regular water activities, including such things as harbour cruises or the water taxi, do not require approval.
  • Other water activities, including such things as wakeboard events or a dragon boat regatta that involves multiple vessels or will block areas of the water that vessels could use for navigation, will require approval.

Events with activities on False Creek involving or affecting the public require approval from Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety and from the City. The approval process can take up to three months.

False Creek is the area of water east of Kits Point (delineated by a line drawn in a direction of 45º true from 49º 16’39”N, 123º 9’8”W to 49º 17’ 1”N, 123º 8’ 34”W).

Activities on navigable waterways other than False Creek

If you are planning activities that will take place on a navigable waterway, and which may impact the regular activity on that waterway, you may need approvals or permits.

  • Activities such as swimming events, because they do not take place on areas of the water that would be used by boat traffic or involve a large number of vessels, are not considered water activities.
  • Regular water activities, including such things as harbour cruises or the water taxi, do not require approval.
  • Other water activities, including such things as wakeboard events or a dragon boat regatta that involves multiple vessels or will block areas of the water that vessels could use for navigation, will require approval.

Events with activities on False Creek involving or affecting the public require approval from Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety and from the City. The approval process can take up to three months.

Events with activities on waterways other than False Creek may require a Marine Event Permit from Port Metro Vancouver (the Vancouver Port Authority).

Area notification

The event organizer is responsible for ensuring that residents and/or merchants affected by the event are notified. For example, a flyer could be distributed along the route of a walk/parade or fun run. The flyer should include information about the event including:

  • The date
  • The start and end times
  • The event location or route
  • Any traffic disruptions or parking restrictions

Large events may be required to notify the public by advertising in local newspapers.

Bleachers

Any tiered seating, either with benches or chairs. Grandstands are large bleachers, capable of seating hundreds or thousands of people.

If you are planning to put up bleachers, you may require a building permit from Development Services. applying for and receiving a building permit can take 2-3 weeks for small to medium sized events, and 4-6 weeks for larger events.

Note: The set-up and takedown of your bleachers must comply with the Noise Control Bylaw.

Building permits and development permits for events

Building permits are required for:

  • Bleachers (grandstands)
  • Stages:
    • Higher than 1.2m (4 feet) OR
    • Larger than 40m2 (430 f2
  • Tents:
    • Larger than 60m2 (645 ft2) OR
    • Closer than 3m (9’-10”) apart AND which total more than 60m2 (645 ft2) in area

Development permits may be required for large, complex events or events of a longer duration.

Receiving a building permit can take 2-3 weeks for small to medium sized events, and 4-6 weeks for larger events. Receiving a development permit can take 4-6 weeks as well. Be sure you allow enough time for the process.

Contact Development Services for more information and for application forms and checklists.

Application fees

If your event will be held on City streets, sidewalks, public property, or private property, and there could be negative impacts on the residents or businesses in the area, you will have to pay a non-refundable application fee. If your event takes place in a park, you are also required to pay a park permit application fee.

Tax does not apply to application fees.

Application type  Fee 
City events organized by not-for-profit organizations  $100.00
City events organized by commercial or corporate organizations  $200.00
Park events  $30.00

Fireworks (pyrotechnics)

There are three (3) types of fireworks or pyrotechnics. All are under the jurisdiction of the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

  • Family fireworks used during the Hallowe’en season (October 25 to October 31) require a permit to possess or discharge,  and can only be discharged on private property. The permit is available only in late October.
  • Display fireworks are typically used in public fireworks displays. They are only used outdoors.
  • Pyrotechnic special effects are used in sporting or other public events. They may be used indoors or outdoors.

As well, display fireworks and pyrotechnic special effects are regulated by the federal government. Display fireworks and pyrotechnic special effects must be:

  • Approved by Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services before the event.
  • Installed and discharged by a pyrotechnic special effects technician certified by Natural Resources Canada. Your pyrotechnic special effects technician or special effects company can help you with this process.

Goods and services are anything being sold other than food or beverages, such as event programs, T-shirts, hats, or other merchandise offered by vendors at your event.

If you plan to sell goods or services at your event (or allow them to be sold), you may choose to apply for a Special Event Market Permit. This will allow you to control vendor access to your event.

Note: If you want to provide goods or services at an event in an park, you must get permission from the Vancouver Park Board. For more information, see the Vancouver Park Board Special Events Guidelines.

Grant to offset policing costs

The Vancouver Police Department may offer a $500 grant to non-profit organizations and events to offset policing costs incurred during a special event. Event organizers must go through the standard application process and meet with the FEST Committee to qualify for the grant.

Navigable waterways

Navigable waterways are any waterways on which motorized and non-motorized watercraft can operate.

For the Vancouver area, this generally refers to salt water areas including False Creek, English Bay and the Vancouver Harbour.

Noise

All events must comply with the Noise Control Bylaw. The bylaw limits how much sound can come from any source at the event itself, and during set-up or take-down. The bylaw helps ensure that the general public and the surrounding areas are not adversely affected.

Amplified sound

Amplified sound includes speeches, music or singing, or other live performances.

If you are having amplified sound

The Special Events Office will check to ensure that you can control noise levels caused by your event. While some exceptions can be made for special circumstances, the Special Events Office requires that you:

  • Limit your set-up and take-down to between 7am and 8pm (10am and 8pm on Sundays)
  • Include information about amplified sound equipment on your site drawing
  • Ensure your sound technician can monitor sound levels from any amplification equipment with a sound level meter and adjust sound levels as necessary

If you are not having amplified sound

The Special Events Office will check to ensure that you can control noise levels caused by your event. While some exceptions can be made for special circumstances, the Special Events Office suggests that you limit your set-up and takedown to between 7am and 8pm (10am and 8pm on Sundays). 

Additional requirements

Events in a park

  • The Vancouver Park Board will also review your Neighbourhood Impact Plan.
  • You must ensure that any amplified sound or other noise from your event is limited to between 9am and 10pm.

Events at the Vancouver Art Gallery

  • The Vancouver Art Gallery will also review your Neighbourhood Impact Plan. When preparing your plan, keep in mind that the Vancouver Art Gallery and the surrounding areas are sensitive to noise.
  • You must ensure that any amplified sound or other noise from your event does not continue beyond 10pm.

Events at any other location

  • You must ensure that any amplified sound or other noise from your event does not continue beyond 10pm.

Open food

Open food is food that is not pre-packaged. Open food includes any food that is cooked, prepared or assembled at the site, such as:

  • Hamburgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Fish and chips
  • Samosas
  • Mini donuts
  • Donairs and gyros
  • “Make your own” salads
  • Other similar products

Parks

If you wish to hold your event in a park, be aware that the timelines, processes, forms, and fees may be different than for event held in Vancouver outside of a park.

For more information, contact the Park Board's Special Event Office.

2099 Beach Avenue
Vancouver, BC V6G 1Z4
Phone 3-1-1 or 7-1-1 (TTY)
Email parkevents@vancouver.ca
Fax to 604-257-8501

Download a special event in parks permit application form 

Pre-packaged food

Pre-packaged food is any non-perishable food that is prepared off site by a licenced facility. Pre-packaged food typically includes commercially available products like:

  • Candy bars
  • Canned  or bottled pop
  • Popsicles
  • Other similar items

Private special event (for special occasion liquor license)

A private special event is only attended by:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • An organization's members or staff
  • Invited guests or ticket holders (tickets must be sold or given away before the event)

The occasion may be:

  • Social (such as a staff party, birthday or anniversary)
  • Religious (such as a wedding, christening, bar mitzvah or other religious occasion)
  • Cultural
  • Recreational
  • Sports-oriented
  • Community-oriented OR
  • Promotional (such as acquainting people with the product of a licensed winery, brewery or distillery)

Pre-wedding parties, such as stags or bachelorettes, do not qualify for a private special occasion license and must be held in a licensed establishment or a residence.

Public special event (for special occasion liquor license)

A public special event is open to anyone who wishes to participate or buy a ticket, either at the door or in advance of the event.

The occasion may be:

  • A community or public event (such as a community festival or outdoor concert)
  • A tasting event so a liquor manufacturer can showcase their product OR
  • Any event that contributes to the cultural or social life of the community

Registered charity

A registered Canadian charity is an organization which:

  • Is established and operated for charitable purposes
  • Devotes its resources to charitable activities
  • Is based in Canada
  • Does not use its income to benefit its members
  • Is incorporated or is governed by a trust or a constitution
  • Provides a public benefit

All registered Canadian charities receive a Charitable Registration Number. If you are a registered charity, you will need to provide that number to us so that we can process your application appropriately. To learn more or to register as charity, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website.

Route check

Before

If your event is occurring on a City street, you should check the route about one week prior to it. This may include driving or walking the route to identify any road defects or street construction that may interfere. Road defects may need to be corrected by the Engineering department (at your expense).

Another site check should be done just before the start of the event to confirm that the route or location is safe.

During the Event

Your staff or volunteers may not try to control traffic, but are essential for assisting participants and pedestrians along the route of an event. An event ambassador is required to check the route for stragglers and to advise the Police when the road is clear of participants.

Selling alcohol

If you are accepting any sort of payment for alcohol that you are serving at your event, you are considered to be selling alcohol and you need a liquor license.

Serving alcohol

If you plan to serve alcohol at your event (or allow it to be served), then you are considered to be serving alcohol and you need a liquor license.

Site plan

A site plans is a diagram of the location of your event. It must show the dimensions / measurements and location of all major features of the site, including:

  • Buildings
  • Stages
  • Streets
  • Tents

Stages

If you plan to put up any stages or similar structures  which are higher than 1.2m (4 feet) or larger than 40m2 (430 f2), you may need a building permit from Development Services.

It can take 2-3 weeks to get a building permit for small to medium sized events, and from 4-6 weeks for larger events. Be sure you allow enough time for the process. To learn more, visit the building permit page.

The set-up and takedown of your tents must comply with the Vancouver Noise Control Bylaw.

Structures on navigable waterways

Structures on the water are anything that is built on or near the water, whether temporary or permanent. Examples include docks, piles or piers.

Are you planning to set up any structures on the water (anchored or otherwise) on a navigable waterway? If so, you will need to get approval under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. To learn more, contact Transport Canada or visit their site at http://www.tc.gc.ca/pacific/marine/nwpd/menu.htm.

You may also have to complete an application with the Burrard Environmental Review Committee (BERC). You can learn more about (BERC) at http://www.bieapfremp.org/main_bieap.html.

Temporary electrical power

Any power service that is provided from a generator or that requires the installation of distribution equipment (ie. transformers, multi-phase supplies, breaker panels, etc.) is considered “temporary electrical power” and will require an electrical permit .

If all electrical equipment for your event is powered by existing sources (i.e. existing permanent electrical sockets) and does not require distribution (other than with commonly available extension cords) then you are not considered to be using temporary power.

Note: For any event that uses power, you are responsible for ensuring that all electrical equipment is installed and operated safely, regardless of if you require an electrical permit or not.

Transit Shelter Advertising Program

The Transit Shelter Advertising Program  offers Vancouver-based arts, culture and community service non-profit groups the opportunity to advertise their events in local transit shelters .

You are responsible for the printing costs of your posters, and the program requires a lead time of 4 months. For more information, see the page view details on the Transit Shelter Advertising Program page, or contact the Office of Cultural Affairs.

Vancouver Art Gallery

The Georgia Street Plaza and the Robson Street Plaza are available for rallies and public demonstrations. You are encouraged to call about availability and permission before you apply.

If you will be having amplified sound, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Vancouver Art Gallery will review your Neighbourhood Impact Plan to ensure that you can control noise levels caused by your event. When preparing your plan, keep in mind that the Vancouver Art Gallery and the surrounding areas are sensitive to noise.

While some exceptions can be made for special circumstances, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Vancouver Art Gallery require that you:

  • Limit your set-up and takedown to between 7am and 8pm (10am and 8pm on Sundays)
  • Include information about amplified sound equipment on your site drawing
  • Ensure any amplified sound or other noise from your event does not continue beyond 10pm
  • Ensure your sound technician can monitor sound levels from any amplification equipment with a sound level meter and adjust sound levels as necessary

As well, posters or other material may not be attached to the Vancouver Art Gallery building.

For more information about events in and around the Vancouver Art Gallery, please contact the venue rental coordinator at 604-662-4714.

Vancouver Public Library

The plazas outside the main branch  of the Vancouver Public library can be used for events, rallies and public demonstrations.  You are encouraged to call about availability and permission before you apply.

For more information about events at the Vancouver Public Library, please contact Polly Argo at 604-331-4045.

Waste management and recycling

Events often generate both recyclable materials and garbage. To minimize the clean-up, it's important you follow a few key points:

  • Have the garbage cans and recycling bins together
  • Assign volunteers to staff the recycling stations so that you can maximize the recyclables - people aren't always aware of what can be recycled
  • Have more garbage cans and recycling stations than you think you will need
  • Distribute your garbage cans and recycling stations around the site / along the route
  • Know before your event what you will do with the recyclables, and who will do it

For more tips about waste management and recycling at events, also see the Event Waste Diversion Handbook (from the City of Toronto) 

If you are interested in the many other things you can do to have a "greener" event, look at the Event Greening Guide (from RRFB, Halifax) 

Ready to apply for your special event?

Ready to apply? If you are ready to apply for your special event permit, click the link below to go directly to the online application.

Apply for events

Is your event in a park? If your event is in a park, you will also need to fill out the Park Board's application.

Apply for events in parks