Temporary Expansion of Outdoor Seating for Restaurants

To further support economic recovery efforts for restaurants during the temporary occupancy limitations currently in place as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, East Lansing City Council has approved Policy Resolution 2020-4 (PDF). The policy resolution streamlines the approval process and temporarily eliminates fees for businesses that wish to temporarily expand their existing seating capacity into adjacent outdoor areas, including public and private property, and temporarily modifies elements of Policy Resolution 2014-5 (PDF). Adjoining property for expansion can include any private plaza, parking lot or other outdoor area and/or public sidewalk/right-of-way.

While fees have been eliminated, restaurants must still receive City approval and have proper authorization. If alcohol is to be served in an outdoor seating area, the restaurant must follow all Michigan Liquor Control Commission licensing and regulations. 
Once approved, the temporary expansion of restaurant seating will be permitted through the end of October 2020.

Temporary Site Plan Modifications Approval Process

The City of East Lansing has further streamlined the application process for the temporary expansion of restaurant service to outdoor areas. In addition to the approved policy resolutions indicated above, the City has also modified its application process by combining two applications that were previously required for an expansion request into one, single application. There is no need to re-apply if you have already submitted an application.

  • Temporary Outdoor Seating Application
    Temporary site plan modification approvals will expire on November 1, 2020. To apply for a temporary expansion of outdoor seating, please complete and submit this application. Please note that all fees have been eliminated for the 2020 season. Depending on certain attributes of your application, different types of supporting documentation are required when applying. Learn more (see page 2).
All applications must be submitted to:
Department of Planning, Building & Development 
City of East Lansing, Room 217
410 Abbot Road
East Lansing, MI 48823 

Phone: (517) 319-6930 
Fax: (517) 337-1607 
E-mail: dhaywood@cityofeastlansing.com 

Important note for restaurants serving alcohol in temporary outdoor seating areas: If alcohol will be served in the new temporary outdoor seating area, the restaurant must be in compliance with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s (MLCC) licensing and regulations, including the requirement for local approvals. Written approval from the City of East Lansing is required before an application to MLCC can be considered for the use of public property. Please reference MLCC’s Re-Opening Frequently Asked Questions document for more information on complying with MLCC licensing and regulatory requirements. 

Temporary Site Plan Modifications Approval Criteria

Approval of a site plan modifications application is based on the following conditions: 

  • Fifty percent of the current capacity and the capacity added by the modified site plan may not exceed the current capacity limits.
  • There must be a license for the restaurant to use any property that is not currently on its site. 
  • If the proposed expansion is in a parking area, the number of required parking spaces provided on that site shall be reduced by no more than 25 percent.
  • If alcohol is to be served in the added service area, the restaurant must be in compliance with MLCC licensing and regulations.
  • The modified site plan reverts to the current site plan on November 1, 2020.
  • The application for a modified site plan pursuant to this resolution must be in compliance with the City Code.
  • The fee for such an application shall be temporarily eliminated.