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How to apply to host a special event in Boston

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You may need permits from several departments to host an event in Boston. Please note permits may incur a fee. You start the process online, and then meet with us.

Step
1

Before you get started

Anyone hosting an event on public property or private property outdoors needs to apply. Whether the event is free or ticketed, open to the public, or invitation-only, it doesn’t matter — you still have to apply.

Special events include road races, block parties, festivals, and parades. Some events may include entertainment, games, food, and beverages.

To hold a special event, you may need to get permitted through several departments in the City. Give yourself plenty of time to apply. You must apply at least 30 days before a big event, or 20 days before a smaller one.

Please note:
Step
2

Apply to host a public event online

Please submit a public event application. If this is your first event with the City, you will need to set up an online account. Remember to write down your username and password.

Special event application

When you apply online, you need to give us some general information about your event and include some other documents:

  • If you’re holding your event on private property, we need to see a copy of your rental agreement.
  • If you will be using a cleaning contractor at your event, please give us a copy of your contract.
  • If you need insurance for your event, we also need a copy of the insurance policy.

After you apply online, you will receive a call from the Special Events team on how to move forward with your event. We will either set up a meeting with the special event committee, or you’ll have to meet with individual departments at the City. We’ll also let you know about any other permits or services you might need.

Step
3

Get your information together

You need to get some additional information about your event for your meeting. At a minimum, you need to produce a detailed site plan that clearly indicates all components of your event.

The site plan should consist of:

  • handicap, pedestrian, and fire access points
  • the sizes of stages or tents you plan to use
  • the type of equipment and generator you will use, and
  • the location of outdoor vendors and toilets.

You’ll also need to show us that you have permission to use the site, depending on the location of your event:

If this is the first time you are holding the event, we need to see letters of support from the local community and businesses.  You may reach out to the Office of Neighborhood Services for assistance with setting up the community meeting.

Step
4

Go to your meeting

You will meet with the Special Events Committee at a pre-arranged time through a virtual conference. At the meeting, you will present the details of the event and the Committee will advise which additional permits are required in order to receive final approval from the City of Boston.

At your special event committee meeting, you will be given a checklist of permits and documents you need to get for your event. We created a page that details some of the permits you may need from City departments for a public event:

Common special event permits

Review this helpful reference sheet with all the contacts related to permits in the Special Events process.

Step
5

Apply for permits and submit your application

After the special event committee meeting, you will apply for and gather all the permits listed on the checklist from the committee meeting as soon as possible.  Please note some City permits may take some time to acquire and a fee may be applied for each permit.

The Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing (MOCAL) issues the final permit for your event. In order to receive the final permit, you will be required to submit the Special Events Application (signed by the Police Captain) and all the permits from the Committee checklist to MOCAL@boston.gov at least five (5) days before the event:

Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing
1 City Hall Square, Room 809
Boston, MA 02201
Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
You can also email us at: MOCAL@boston.gov 

If you have any questions regarding the special events process, please email Joyce.judge@boston.gov or call 617-635-2673.

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