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Get a Permit for a Special Event

Each year hundreds of special events are held in the District of Columbia. Residents and organizations planning a special event are required to obtain permits to hold special events in DC. The following forms and links are provided here to simplify the application process. After completing a form, please mail it to the address included on the document.

Defining "Special Event"

The definition of a "special event" varies from agency to agency, as do the licensing and permit requirements for different types of special events. It is, therefore, imperative that you know which agency or agencies have governance over your proposed event.

The DC Emergency Management Agency (DCEMA) has the final word on special event planning in the Nation's Capital. According to the 1990 District of Columbia Special Event handbook of the DCEMA:

Special events are activities for which licenses and permits are required within the District of Columbia and where large numbers of persons may gather or participate. Such events may include parades, cultural programs, festivals, musical rock concerts, religious gatherings, block parties, community activities, and First Amendment Rights activities.

Although this definition does not list all the activities that are considered special events, it does incorporate "any activity where large numbers of persons may gather" and "activities for which licenses and permits are required."

Oversight Responsibility

The Mayor's Special Events Task Group oversees special events and is under the supervision and control of DCEMA. According to these mayoral orders:

The Special Events Task Group is composed of members from the District of Columbia government, the federal government, and the private sector's emergency service organizations. The Task Group has been assigned the responsibility of helping individuals, organizations, and agencies of local, regional, and national government coordinate special events. The Task Group has established guidelines to help potential sponsors of public, cultural, and recreational events to hold successful activities.

The DCEMA is authorized to recommend guidelines, regulations, and procedures necessary to accomplish the purpose of the Task Group, provided that any guidelines, procedures, or regulations are in conformity with applicable laws, orders, rules, and regulations of the United States and the Government of the District of Columbia and are approved by the Mayor.

Special Event Requirements

As an event planner, you are required to meet with the Special Events Task Group at least 60 days prior to your proposed event. Due to the large number of events held in Washington, DC, and the District's extensive regulations that govern event planning, you should contact the Task Force at least 180 days in advance of an event. For parades, demonstrations, and other permits controlled by the Metropolitan Police Department, you can initiate this notification by completing the appropriate forms (see below) and mailing them to the MPDC's Special Operations Division. Contact the DCEMA at (202) 727-3165.

At the Task Force meeting, you will be required to produce 12 copies of your plan of action and make a presentation covering the event. The Task Group consists of representatives from the following District of Columbia agencies:

  • Department of Administrative Services
  • Commission on the Arts and Humanities
  • Office of the Chief Financial Officer/Office of Tax and Revenue
  • DC Committee to Promote Washington
  • Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
  • Emergency Management Agency
  • Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department
  • Department of Human Services
  • Mayor's Office of Communications
  • Metropolitan Police Department (Special Operations Division)
  • Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Department of Public Works
  • Office of the Secretary

If the event involves the use of, or is in close proximity to, federal property, representatives from the National Park Service and other appropriate agencies of the US Government will be invited to participate in the Task Group.

Representatives from the following agencies and organizations may also be invited to participate in the Task Group:

  • District of Columbia Chapter of the American Red Cross
  • District of Columbia Armory
  • District of Columbia Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board
  • District of Columbia National Guard
  • District of Columbia Public Schools
  • Washington Convention Center

Permits and Licenses

Following the Special Events Task Group meeting, agencies that issue permits and licenses for different aspects of a special event are your next priority. Read a brief overview of the agencies and their jurisdictional responsibilities.

Still Have Questions?

If you are still in doubt as to whether you proposed activity is a "special event" and exactly what is required, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the activity open to the public?
  2. Are there any aspects of the activity that involve special features or additions such as music, amusements rides, pyrotechnics, etc.?
  3. Does the activity require a temporary street closing?
  4. Even if the activity will be held primarily on private space, will some aspects spill on to the public space?
  5. Is there a remote chance that the safety and welfare of the participants and/or the residents of the District of Columbia may be affected if certain aspects of the activity are not properly constructed, installed, or handled -- for example, food, electrical wiring, booths, generators, propane?
  6. If you answered yes to any of the above questions, the activity is probably a special event and will require some type of permit.

For further information, contact:

  • DC Emergency Management Agency, (202) 727-3165
  • Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Special Events Coordinator, (202) 442-4400
  • Metropolitan Police Department, Special Events Branch, (202) 671-6522

Regulations Associated with Parades and Public Events

The following DC Municipal Regulations and DC Code regulations and statue set forth in more detail the requirements for handling first amendment assemblies and mass demonstrations:

DC Municipal Regulations

Details about First Amendment Assemblies in the District of Columbia may be found in the DC Municipal Regulations. The specific regulations are in Chapter 24-7. See:

DC Code

To view the language about First Amendment Assemblies under DC Code, either search for 5-331.01 et seq. in the DC Code or view Title 5 Chapter 3A: First Amendment Rights and  Police Standards

Service Contact: 
MPD, Special Events Branch
Contact Phone: 
(202) 671-6522
Contact TTY: