City of Sarnia Providing Business Flexibility

The City is supporting businesses interested in expanding their presence outdoors. If an establishment is operating a patio, it must take appropriate measures as per provincial and public health guidelines. 

On June 22, 2020 Sarnia City Council endorsed the recommendations to amend the Refreshment Vehicles section of the Business Licensing By-law (By-law Number 128 of 2017) to allow existing restaurant business owners to offer outdoor food sales opportunities on their property or on the city right-of-way within close proximity to their restaurant, for a two-year pilot period.

Recommendations were endorsed to permit a temporary exemption to required parking and landscape standards for commercially zoned property in order to allow business owners to expand their presence on-site to drive sales opportunities in a safe and socially distanced manner, for a two-year pilot period, ending December 2021.

Council additionally waived the fees associated with the use of on-street parking spaces for food service opportunities for interested food service owners looking to expand their sales opportunities within close proximity of their existing establishment. Existing required parking spaces and landscaped areas on private commercially zoned property are allowed to be used for the sale of food and products associated with the on-site business, allowing the opportunity for an outdoor, socially-distanced shopping and dining experience for customers over the next two years to be permitted.

The recommended amendments will allow existing required parking spaces and landscaped areas on private commercially zoned property to be used for the sale of food and products associated with the on-site business, allowing the opportunity for an outdoor, socially-distanced shopping and dining experience for customers over the next two years to be permitted.

With the economic impacts of this global pandemic continuing to increase in severity, providing opportunities to support local businesses in delivering their services to the community, with potentially prolonged social distancing requirements, will require greater flexibility in terms of the use of private and public outdoor spaces.

The amendments proposed for the Public Meeting on Monday July 13, 2020 will provide maximum flexibility for business owners by temporarily suspending required parking space and landscaped area zoning regulations and licensing requirements for refreshment vehicles for a two-year period. This will allow the creation of outdoor shopping and dining spaces by property owners without an amendment to any existing site plans or relief to required parking or landscaping standards.

For businesses in our historic Downtown and Mitton Village, and other commercial areas in our community with similar built form and limited private outdoor space, they can apply for a free-of-charge right-of-way permit that will allow them to expand their sales and dining experiences out onto city-property, while ensuring patrons and pedestrian travelers can still safely maneuver while maintaining social distancing.

Businesses are asked to notify the City of their temporary expansion or establishment of a patio. Liquor sales licensees who wish to temporarily extend the physical size of their existing licensed patio, or temporarily add a new licensed patio will need to obtain approval. If a business is looking to extend a patio or deck more than 1 foot above grade, they will need to contact for permit and setback requirements. For more information, visit: Restaurant and food service businesses can find resources, best practices and information online here:

For more information please see Ontario’s framework for reopening our province:

Business Licensing

If you are looking to open a business or expand your existing one with an outdoor space, please contact the licensing department at or (519)332-0330 ext 3350

Need to apply for a new business licence or renew an existing one? Click Here for more information on business licensing.


If you are extending a patio or deck more than 1 foot above grade, you will need to contact for permit and setback requirements.

If you are an existing business owner looking to expand outdoor food sales on your property or require a city right-of way contact

If you are interested in applying to have an outdoor space or patio for your existing business, please fill in the form below.

Outdoor Space for Businesses

If you are looking to expand your existing business with an outdoor space, please fill in the form below
  • Please attach a sketch of the proposed patio or outdoor space

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

The City’s Accessibility Design Standards Exterior accessible routes including sidewalks and paths are to be at a minimum width of 1200 mm / 1.2 metres

Building & Planning

Tents over 60 square metres / 645 square feet require a permit.

Tents can be grouped into one of 3 categories with different requirements under the Ontario Building Code;

  • Tents under 60 square metres / 645 square feet: No permits required.
  • Tents over 60 square metres / 645 square feet, but under 225 square metres: These tents do require a Building Permit, however application requirements are quite limited. Only an Application Form, a Site Plan, and a copy of the tent’s Flame Spread Certificate are required. Tents are required to be setback a minimum of 3m from property lines.
  • Tents over 225 square metres: These tents also require a Permit. In addition to the requirements above, these tents have a much more involved review process. Tents of this size are required to be designed and reviewed by a Professional Engineer as well as additional requirements with regards to sanitary and electrical facilities.

The City’s tent permit fee is $79.00, and the review process is within 5 business days. Submissions can be sent to


Telephone: 416-326-8700
Toll free in Ontario: 1-800-522-2876
AGCO Website

Licensed establishments who do not currently have a patio space are eligible under these temporary measures and can still qualify provided that they have municipal approval and meet all other requirements (temporary new licensed patios are also permitted under this temporary measure).

Licensees who wish to maintain the patio extension beyond January 1, 2021 must apply through iAGCO and must meet all applicable requirements and pay the required fees.

The capacity for a temporary new patio is 1.11 square metres per person, which is the maximum capacity of premises to which neither the Building Code Act, 1992 nor the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 applies. Please see this webpage for more information on calculating the dimensions of a proposed extended licensed area. 

See the Bulletin Here


In addition, the Ontario Fire Code adds the following requirements, which shall be in place for the duration of the presence of the tents:

1.   Hay, straw, shavings or similar combustibles shall not be used within a tent used for an assembly occupancy. (restaurants, bars and similar occupancies are classified as assembly.)

2.   Smoking shall not take place and open flame devices shall not be used in a tent, unless provisions have been made under the fire safety plan.

3.   A person (which under most circumstances will be an employee) shall be in charge of being familiar with the fire safety features, the condition of exits, and to ensure that the means of egress are kept clear.

For more information on this please contact

Lambton Public Health

Telephone: 519-383-8331
Toll-free: 1-800-667-1839
Lambton Public Health Website