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Plan a block party

What is a block party?

A block party is a neighbourhood event in which residents get together to hold a social gathering on their street. Parties can be held on weekends and holidays. The street can be closed off to traffic during your party. The City of Ottawa offers an excellent event planning guide.

Getting a permit

If you’re organizing a block party and planning to close your street, here’s what you need to know:

  • You will need to apply for a block party permit from the City of Ottawa.
  • You must submit your permit application at least 28 days before your event
  • You must apply in writing to the City.Your application must be signed either by you or by someone else who is organizing or sponsoring this event.

Your application must include the following information:

  • date of your event
  • start and finish times of your event
  • estimated number of participants
  • purpose of the event
  • proposed location and route, if applicable
  • number and type of vehicles, including floats and displays, if applicable
  • other information the General Manager might ask for that is specific to your event

You may need to provide proof of insurance to the City before you receive a permit. For more information about your responsibilities when holding a block party, visit the City of Ottawa website’s special events and block parties by-laws.

You can also call the City’s Contact Centre, open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, at:

General Inquiries: 3-1-1 (613-580-2400)
Toll-Free: 866-261-9799
TTY: 613-580-2401-TTY/Teletypewriter users only

If you’re planning to serve alcohol at an event on City property (like in a park) you must obtain a Special Occasion Permit from the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission.

There are also rules and regulations for setting up a space to serve alcohol, and who can serve it. Read the City’s Municipal Alcohol Policy online.

Setting a budget and a timeline

When organizing a party, no one wants to be left with a big bill at the end of it. Make sure you create a realistic budget. Here's how to do it:

  • Assign one person on your committee to manage the budget to make sure it stays on track.
  • List all the items your event will need and how much each will cost. Include:
    • food and drinks
    • equipment
    • entertainment
    • marketing
    • prizes
    • decorations
    • space rental
    • permit fees
    • thank-you gifts
    • other
  • Consider how much you might be able to obtain through donations or sponsorships.
  • List the organizations or people you want to approach for donations and sponsorships. Decide who will approach them, how and when.
  • Decide what items you might like your guests to contribute. For example, you could create a list of all food items needed, send it out to your neighbours and ask them what items they would like to bring.
  • Figure out how much you may need to charge people to participate in the event in order to cover your costs.
  • Always try to leave a bit of room in your budget for last minute expenses that might come up.

Once the committee has settled on an event date, create a timeline. This document outlines what activities have to be done in the months and weeks leading up to the event all the way through to post-event activities, such as returning rental equipment or writing thank you notes. The schedule assigns deadlines for each activity as well as who is responsible for what.

By-laws

Don't forget there are by-laws about noise, parking and other issues that might relate to your block party. You can find out more information about by-laws on the City of Ottawa website.

Insurance

The City of Ottawa does not always require insurance for small neighbourhood events or block parties, but you should call and ask before you start organizing yours. If there are activities like street hockey or other sports involved, in which people or property could be hurt or damaged, insurance is recommended.

You can check with your own home insurer to see what rates they might offer you. Otherwise, you can contact an insurance company like PAL Insurance 1-800-265-8098 that specializes in one-time coverage for special events.