Business Opportunity to Expand Outdoors

The City’s Zoning Board of Appeals has granted a temporary variance (through November 30, 2020) to allow occupied commercial restaurants, retail or food service operations to operate out-of-doors. All businesses can use up to 500 square feet of available space, without approvals from the City. This approval runs through December 1, 2020.

What are the general rules for using new, outdoor space? 

  • Use green space or open space before using parking areas.
  • Get the property owners permission if you are a tenant.
  • Plan for safety -- if you think you will use the space at night, it should be well lit.
  • Use an attractive temporary barrier such as fencing or landscaping/flowers to define your new space.
  • Allow indoor restrooms for use by customers.
  • Plan for flexibility – to provide for handicap accessibility and to follow the Executive Orders as restrictions are lifted.
  • Consult the Michigan Liquor Control Commission if you are proposing changes to where you would normally serve alcohol.
  • Inform your insurance carrier about the changes in how you're operating
  • If you are proposing to cook food outdoors, consult the Saginaw County Health Department


  • Place displays or seats within the public right of way or within 2 feet of traffic circulation.
  • Sell goods that you don’t normally sell inside.
  • Block fire doors, exits, emergency vehicle access or hydrants with seating or displays.
  • Block pedestrian access to the public sidewalk or parking lot.
  • Use handicap accessible parking spaces. 
  • Create more retail selling space or table seating than is available inside.

More Things to Know 

  • Tents and shade structures may be permitted, but are subject to inspection and separate permit for no more than 30 days a calendar year. Umbrellas and other such movable, temporary shade structures are permitted. 
  • Outdoor cooking is limited to current regulations.
  • The Noise Ordinance will remain in place.  The City discourages amplified music.

 Want to use more than 500 square feet?

You can, IF:

  • You meet all the guidance detailed above
  • You ensure you have adequate parking.  
How to calculate parking:

Parking is calculated based on your use and then a ratio. We've included the most common uses and information below:

 Use  Requirements
Retail One space for each 200 square feet of floor area
Retail area inside a restaurant One space for each 400 square feet of retail floor area
Restaurants  One for each 100 square feet of floor area or .3 spaces per seat, whichever is greater
Restaurants - outdoor seating One for each 400 square feet of outdoor floor area or .075 space per seat, whichever is greater

Here is an example on how to calculate your parking needs: 
  • A restaurant wants to add additional seating outside as due to social distancing and other limitations they have to restrict the numbers of tables inside. 
  • The restaurant has 30 parking spaces and typically would have 100 seat inside (.3 spaces per seat).
  • Under existing restrictions, they are required to limit their capacity to 50 seats. Per the parking requirements, the restaurants reduced occupancy requires only 15 spaces (.3 spaces x 50 seats).
  • The restaurant has the right to have 500 square feet outside without worrying about parking. They want to provide 1000 square feet total.
  • An additional 500 square feet of outdoor dining above the permitted 500 feet requires 4 parking spaces (.075 for each seat = 3.75). The restaurant has 16 excess parking spaces that, if they properly designate with barriers, etc., that they could use for seating.
For more information,  Contact Sheila Stamiris at or 989.652.3430 ext 120.