Overview

In June of 2020, County Executive Calvin Ball announced a temporary outdoor seating process for restaurants who wished to increase or add outdoor seating. This process was created to help restaurants provide safer seating options during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when physical distancing and gathering limits were mandated.

Today, restaurants across the county continue to struggle to recover from the ongoing pandemic. To help restaurants continue their recovery, Howard County has created two processes to potentially allow those restaurants that were granted temporary outdoor seating make their seating permanent. At this time, these processes are only an option to restaurants that were granted a temporary outdoor seating permit by the Department of Inspections, Licensing, and Permits prior to August 25, 2021.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected].

View General FAQs

Simplified Permit Review

The Simplified Permit Review is to review applications for permanent outdoor restaurant seating that was temporarily permitted during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in areas that do not impact traffic or site circulation. Restaurants eligible for this streamlined process may apply directly through the Department of Inspections Licenses and Permits.

In order to qualify for the Simplified Permit Review request, your restaurant must meet the following three conditions:

  1. Been issued a temporary outdoor seating permit during the COVID-19 emergency order;
  2. Current temporary outdoor seating is not located within parking spaces or travel lanes; AND
  3. The total seating counts with the permanent outdoor seating area does not increase above the quantity that exceeds the Adequate Public Facility (APFO) threshold that would trigger a revised traffic analysis. This threshold is dependent on the restaurant type.

To apply using the Simplified Permit Review, please follow the instructions below.

  1. Visit the Citizen Access Portal
  2. Login or create a new account
  3. Click the "Building" tab
  4. Click "Create an Application"

Citizen Access Portal

Simplified Permit Review FAQs

Permanent Outdoor Seating Review

The Permanent Outdoor Seating Review (POSR) is an advisory process for restaurant establishments that would like to make their temporary outdoor seating permanent but do not qualify for the simplified process detailed above. POSR is an opportunity for the County to consider site specific details and advise the applicant on the feasibility of the request prior to a formal plan submission. If deemed feasible, applicants will be directed to the appropriate process for approval and any information required to review a formal application.

Approval for outdoor seating is not granted through the POSR process. To have your seating reviewed through the POSR process, please visit the form below.

Permanent Outdoor Seating Review Form

Permanent Outdoor Seating Review FAQs

Liquor License

Applicants that currently hold a liquor license must also submit a new extension of premises application. State code requires a hearing prior to approval and that hearing must be advertised for two consecutive weeks. Additionally, public notice must be posted on site for 15 days prior to the scheduled hearing date. We will schedule hearings in the order that completed applications are submitted.

The requisite application and a detailed checklist can be found on the Howard County Council Liquor Board website. In addition to the items on the checklist, we also recommend providing the following details about your extended outdoor space with the application, which may help to streamline your approval:

  • A plan for employee coverage of the extended area; and
  • A front-facing or overhead photo or drawing of the barriers for the extended area, to include a description and the dimensions

It is important to note that NO APPLICATION will be accepted without all required documentation and compliance with procedures outlined on the application and checklist.

General FAQs
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1. I am restaurant that received approval for temporary outdoor seating for my restaurant during COIVD-19 and I would like to keep this seating permanently.
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Restaurants that received approval for temporary outdoor seating during the COVID-19 emergency order, may request to maintain this seating permanently through either a Simplified Process or the Permanent Outdoor Seating Review (POSR).

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2. Will every restaurant that was granted temporary outdoor seating during the COVID-19 pandemic be allowed to keep their seating permanently?
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Unfortunately, not every restaurant that received temporary seating authorization will be able to maintain outdoor seating. Some seating areas, like those set up in driving lanes or parking lots (in certain situations), are unlikely to be able to maintain seating due to safety, egress, parking requirements, or other concerns.

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3. Can any restaurant that wants to have outdoor seating utilize the Simplified Process or the POSR?
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At this time, the Simplified Process and the POSR are only available to restaurants that were granted temporary approval for outdoor seating prior to August 25, 2021.

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4. Does the Simplified Process or POSR also grant me an Extension of Premises for my Liquor License?
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No. In order to obtain an Extension of Premises, please follow the steps as laid out by the Howard County Board of Liquor Commissioners. Click the link below for more information.

Simplified Permit Review FAQs
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1. What is the Simplified Permit Review process?
Content

The Simplified Permit Review process is to review applications for permanent outdoor restaurant seating that was temporarily permitted during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in areas that do not impact traffic or site circulation. Restaurants eligible for this streamlined process may apply directly through the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits.

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2. How do I know if my restaurant qualifies for the Simplified Permit Review request?
Content

In order to qualify for the Simplified Permit Review request, your restaurant must meet the following three conditions:

  1. Been issued a temporary outdoor seating permit during the COVID-19 emergency order;
  2. Current temporary outdoor seating is not located within parking spaces or travel lanes; AND
  3. The total seating counts with the permanent outdoor seating area does not increase above the quantity that exceeds the Adequate Public Facility (APFO) threshold that would trigger a revised traffic analysis. This threshold is dependent on the restaurant type.

Please email all documents to [email protected]. Please include your contact information and restaurant name.

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3. What are the APFO thresholds for each restaurant type category in Howard County to qualify for the Simplified Permit Review?
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The following thresholds do not require a new traffic study. Please note: descriptions of each restaurant type can be found below.

  • Quality Restaurant: Maximum of total new 18 seats over number of seats permitted prior to the COVID-19 emergency order restrictions
  • High Turn-over Sit-down Restaurant: Maximum of 12 seats over number of seats permitted prior to the COVID-19 emergency order restrictions
  • High Turn-over (With Drive Through): Maximum of 5 seats over number of seats permitted prior to the COVID-19 emergency order restrictions
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4. How are restaurants categorized in Howard County to determine the APFO threshold?
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For the purpose of determining adequacy of roads, Howard County identifies three categories of restaurants; Quality, High-Turnover (Sit-Down), and High-Turn-over with Drive-thru (fast food). Howard County refers to the definitions and trip generation calculations published by the Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE). It is strongly recommended that applicants refer to the latest ITE Manual for applicable definitions, but these three categories are generally defined as follows:

  • Quality Restaurant: high quality, full-service eating establishments with typical duration of stay of at least one hour; generally, do not serve breakfast and some do not serve lunch; often requests and sometimes requires reservations and is generally not part of a chain; patrons commonly wait to be seated, are served by a wait staff, order from menus, and pay for meals after they eat.
  • High-Turnover (Sit-Down) Restaurant: sit-down, full-service eating establishments with typical duration of stay of approximately less than one hour; moderately priced and frequently belongs to a restaurant chain; generally, serve lunch and dinner, but may also be open for breakfast and sometimes open 24 hours per day; typically do not take reservations; patrons either wait to be seated or wait in line to order and then seat themselves, may or may not be served by a wait staff, order from menus or indoor menu board, and may pay for meals before or after they eat
  • High-Turnover w/ Drive-thru (Fast Food) Restaurant: characterized by a large carry-out clientele, long hours of service (some are open for breakfast, are open for lunch and dinner, some are open late at night or 24 hours per day) and high turnover rates for eat-in customers; limited-service eating establishments do not provide table service; patrons generally order at a cash register and pay before they eat.
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5. How do I apply for outdoor seating through the Simplified Permit Review?
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You can apply on the Howard County Citizen Access Portal.


If you do not already have an account, click “Register for an Account” in upper right-hand corner. Once you are registered and logged in, click on ‘Building’ at the top of the page then select ‘Create an Application’. Acknowledge the disclaimer then select ‘continue application’. The Outdoor Seating Application should now be opened.

For questions about how to fill out the Simplified Permit Review application, please visit the Simplified Permit Review Process FAQs document below.

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6. What is the review timeframe for the Simplified Permit Review process?
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Applicants will typically receive a response within 1 week. If additional information is requested to review the application, additional time may be needed.

Permanent Outdoor Seating Review FAQs
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1. What is the Permanent Outdoor Seating Review (POSR)?
Content

The Permanent Outdoor Seating Review (POSR) is an advisory process for restaurant establishments that would like to make their temporary outdoor seating permanent but do not qualify for the simplified process detailed above. POSR is an opportunity for the County to consider site specific details and advise the applicant on the feasibility of the request prior to a formal plan submission. If deemed feasible, applicants will be directed to the appropriate process for approval and any information required to review a formal application.

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2. How soon will I receive a response from the Permanent Outdoor Seating Review (POSR)?
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Applicants will typically receive a response within three weeks.

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3. What will be included in the Permanent Outdoor Seating Review (POSR) response?
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The County will provide an advisory opinion on the feasibility of the proposal and whether the site appears eligible for the creation of permanent outdoor seating through one of the following processes:

  1. Revise the existing approved SDP, if one exists, via the Development Engineering Division (DPZ) standard “Red-Line Revision” process.
  2. If no SDP exists, submit an application for Alternative Compliance to the requirement of a standard SDP. An Alternative Compliance Information Sheet is also provided to assist applicants through that application process.
  3. Proceed directly to the building permit application process with the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits.
  4. Submit additional information and/or revised plan exhibit (if necessary) to make a final determination on the appropriate process.

OR

  1. In the event that the County advises that the request cannot be accommodated, a letter will be issued outlining the site constraints that led to the decision.
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4. How do I apply for the POSR?
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To apply for POSR, please click the link below.

Tags
Permits & Licenses

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