Sidewalk Cafés

Establishments serving alcohol must arrange to be included on the Alcohol License Review Committee (ALRC) Agenda at (608) 266-2401, before operating their sidewalk café.

How to Apply for a Sidewalk Café License

You can apply online or by mail.

If you are applying for the first time, the Street Vending Coordinator must meet you at the site to discuss the sidewalk café set-up. Physical circumstances must be appropriate in the space being considered before a sidewalk café application will be approved. Some requests may be denied. Once the planning stage has begun, you may speak with the Street Vending Coordinator as often as needed while you are developing your idea to completion. Later, the Street Vending Coordinator will make at least one more visit to the site to see the final set-up of all tables, chairs, fencing, covered waste receptacle, umbrellas, etc. If everything meets with City of Madison specifications at that time, the Street Vending Coordinator will approve your application with his signature.
Applying for a Sidewalk Café License Online
The application for this license can be completed on the City of Madison Licenses & Permits portal.
  • If you do not have one already, you must create an account on the Licenses & Permits portal to fill out the application.
  • Once you login to your account go to the Licenses/Registrations section, select Apply for a License/Registration and then choose Vending - Sidewalk Café.
Applying for a Sidewalk Café License By Mail
  1. Complete the Application for Sidewalk Café License (PDF), including diagram.
  2. Submit an insurance certificate (General liability insurance at a minimum of one million dollars, naming City of Madison as Additional Insured). Go to Insurance Requirements.
  3. Enclose payment based on the number of chairs in your sidewalk cafe as follows:
    • 9 or fewer chairs: $400.00/year
    • 10 to 15 chairs: $550.00/year
    • 16 to 20 chairs: $650.00/year
    • 21 or more chairs: $750.00/year


All sidewalk café components must be removed from the sidewalk at the close of each business day or at a time determined by the Alcohol License Review Committee (ALRC).
Covered Trash Receptacle: A covered trash receptacle is required for your sidewalk café patrons' use to help keep your café looking tidy and avoiding the use of public trashcans.
Decorative Lighting: Low-voltage, battery or solar powered light strings or other decorative lighting may be used on sidewalk café enclosures and umbrellas. Any such lighting shall be securely fastened to the enclosure or umbrella, so that it does not blow or swing in the wind, and shall not hang in such a way to create a hazard. No such lighting or other decorative features or cords shall be strung from the building or any public amenity. In no case shall any lighting or electrical devices that must be plugged into a power source, or any extension cords, be used within the café, on an umbrella, or on the surrounding sidewalk, for any reason.
Umbrella Width: Your umbrellas should not project outside the perimeter of your sidewalk café.

Alcohol Management

Consumption of alcohol beverages [9.13(6)(j) 3.b] in all sidewalk cafés shall be limited to persons seated at tables in the sidewalk café site. In the case of sidewalk cafés having an alcohol beverage license, food service shall be required to be available at all times the sidewalk café is open.
Alcohol Management & Closing Times [9.13(6)(j) e.] - There shall be no sale of alcohol for consumption at a sidewalk café after the time approved by the ALRC and specifically indicated on the owner's alcohol beverage license until normal opening of business each day. In addition, all containers of intoxicating beverages shall be removed from the tables of the sidewalk café and the sidewalk café area during those times.
i. For the State Street Special Assessment District, with the exception of the Capitol Concourse, but including Gorham Street from Wisconsin Avenue to University Avenue and University Avenue to Park Street, service of alcohol in sidewalk cafés shall stop no later than 11:30 p.m., with all alcohol off the table by 12:00 a.m. and the sidewalk café closing at 1:00 a.m. (Am. by Ord 13, 613, 5-21-04)
ii. In all other areas of the City of Madison, alcohol shall be off of the table by 1:00 a.m..
Last Updated: 03/13/2014

Contact Warren Hansen, Street Vending Coordinator

  • PH: 608-261-9171
  • FAX: 608-261-6126
  • EMAIL:
    Department of Planning & Community & Economic Development
    Economic Development Division
    Office of Business Resources
    Madison Municipal Building
    215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
    P.O. Box 2985
    Madison WI 53701-2985