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Permits and pop up…


Does your pop up require a permit ?

I’m often asked if pop up events require permits or registrations, and the answer is usually… maybe ! Many events don’t require special permits but others definitely do, and it’s always best to do some good research before the pop up opens (and be sure of your obligations)

It’s not only the basic trading approval you should consider – but also council zoning regulations, hours of operation, licenses for food preparation, service of alcohol, give-aways and prizes, adult entertainment products (and services), health and safety concerns (work cover) etc.

A first call could be to the landlord, asking if the location has any permits already in place. Most high-street shops will have current approval to trade as retail premises, provided the property has hosted retail before and hasn’t been vacant for some time. Similarly, some cafes and bars may have established permits for food and alcohol. In those instances the pop up business might be able to use the existing approvals for a short-term event (as long as the new pop up conforms to the permitted uses and conditions). If the landlord can produce documentation of valid permits – keep copies of those on file, they may come in handy if the council comes knocking !

The next contact should be with the local council planning department – they will ask for the pop up address and details of your intended uses. Depending on who you speak to, some council officers may give you an all-clear to pop up, whilst others will ask for a submission to review before they comment. Uh-oh, here comes the red tape…

My advice to a typical short-term pop up operator is that if permits are required but they’re not already in place – don’t bother applying ! (change your concept or find another location). The time it takes to apply for permits – and the costs – can be prohibitive. I’m not criticising the process (nor the intention behind issuing permits and registrations) – but it goes against the philosophy of pop up. It’s very hard to launch an event that seems fresh, innovative, “flash” and exciting…. when the operator has already spent weeks (or months) tied up in bureaucracy.

There was a report last week of a pop-up event in Perth “knocked back… due to planning issues”*. The organisers of Noodle Palace were well-advanced in their preparations for a series of weekend gigs – featuring live music acts, food stalls, a beer garden and an art exhibition – but didn’t allow sufficient time for the council approvals. They had booked artists and started the site build – but only lodged their event application with the City of Perth 2 weeks before the first gig. The old Myer Megamart building in Northbridge hasn’t hosted similar events before, so authorities needed to assess the event management plans (liquor licensing, sound modelling, risk management and other reports) ahead of granting approvals. Authorities needed more time to review the submission (they’ve suggested 6 months…) and declined the application. As a short-term solution, the event was moved to another venue.

Some pop ups just don’t bother with permits, and take a risk that they won’t be caught out. The reality is that inspectors will usually only respond after complaints are made (by neighbouring retailers / unhappy customers ?) – and by the time they arrive to investigate the pop up has already finished. Unless there’s been a major issue… most authorities won’t bother tracking down offenders.

However, if inspectors do arrive in time… while the pop up is still trading… there can be substantial penalties. Most regulators have the authority (and determination) to close a pop up down and will prosecute offenders. Court convictions and cash fines are a possibility, as well as voiding of insurance and indemnities. And certainly some bad publicity if media outlets get hold of the story !


* source : – Noodle Palace pop-up event knocked back by City of Perth


Red tape - Bite Magazine

image : Red tape – Bite Magazine


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