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. 

Sarnia City Council has endorsed the Temporary Administrative Relief Measures By-Law 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 more information on By-Law 129 of 2021:

The By-Law allows 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 until December 31, 2022. Business owners maybe permitted to extend their business operations onto public outdoor spaces located immediately adjacent to their existing operation, if conditions 2a-e in the By-Law 129 of 2021 are met.

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.

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

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 Refer to the Tents webpage for more information.


Temporary patios for establishments looking for AGCO licensing who do not have a patio space approved by AGCO permanently are eligible under temporary measures and can 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 temporary patio extensions beyond January 1, 2022 must review the AGCO Bulletin: Please contact with any questions and to request approval.

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. 

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


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