Open Culture FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Open Culture Event

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Who can apply?

Art and cultural institutions and cultural venues that meet the eligibility criteria may apply for or co-sponsor an Open Culture event. These include, but are not limited to, museums, comedy clubs, dance troupes, concert venues, and theaters. Both for-profit and non-profit groups may be eligible.

For more specifics on the eligibility criteria and documentation required, please see the “Eligibility” section on the Open Culture Program Guidelines.

How do I apply?

Applications are taken on a rolling, first-come first-served basis. Apply online at and select “Open Culture” as event type.

I want to apply for more than one date. Do I need to submit an application for each date?

Permits are for a single month of events. There is a maximum of 4 event days per month for each applicant or sponsor.

How long before my event should I apply?

You must apply at least 15 days prior to your desired event date, and you can submit your application as early as you like. Keep in mind that we review and approve completed applications in the order they are received, and your location may not be available at the time you apply.

How long will it take to receive a decision on my permit application?

Once your application has been submitted, it will be reviewed promptly, and we will contact you to gather any missing information. Once we receive all the required documentation (Proof of eligibility, Site Plan, Run of Show, Insurance Certificate, and Safety Plan Affirmation), you will receive a determination within 5 business days.

How long can my event be?

The maximum duration for an event is 12 hours, inclusive of set up and break down of the event. If you choose, you could host multiple performances during that duration. All events are limited to one day only. Some locations may have additional restrictions and necessitate shorter durations based on guidance from other agencies.

What if it rains the day of my performance?

To accommodate as many applicants as possible, we cannot reschedule your performance or offer a rain date. However, you are welcome to apply for a new date. Your application fee is non-refundable. Severe weather may result in your event being cancelled by SAPO. A representative will reach out to you in these instances.

What types of events can be held?

Participants may hold artistic and cultural events, such as plays, shows, performances, musical acts, classes, rehearsals, and etc.

Can I apply for an Open Culture permit to host a flash mob event?

Yes, a “flash mob” event is permissible, as long you obtain a permit and adhere to the Open Culture guidelines including: the 500 person non-essential gathering limit, posting No Parking signs, working with the local NYPD precinct and safely closing the street.

Where can Open Culture events be held?

Open Culture events can be held in the designated streets listed on SAPO’s website. The Open Culture program is not available at this time in parks or pedestrian plazas; however, you can still apply for other SAPO or DPR permits in those spaces.

Can you “hold” a location for me before I complete my application?

No, we cannot hold locations.

What if the location I apply for is taken at the time I apply? Do I need to submit a new application?

You do not need to submit a new application. SAPO will notify you that the location has a conflict with another event and will request that you submit a new date or location.

Is the permit free?

Yes! But there is a non-refundable $20 application fee for each permit application. There is also a sound device permit fee if your event utilizes amplified sound. Please see “Application Details” in the Open Culture program guidelines for additional information.

Can I promote my event?

Yes, but gathering limits must always be adhered to. Here are some suggestions for having a successful event while keeping the size safe:

- Require tickets or reservations for a seat / designated area within your performance space.

- Livestream or share content from your event after it takes place on social media.

- Promote the event but share exact time and location with ticket holders only.

Can I sell food or merchandise?

No. You may sell tickets and/or take donations without additional permits; however, you cannot sell or distribute food, merchandise, or beverages, including alcohol.

Am I required to have insurance?

Yes. You must have commercial general liability insurance that covers the City, including its officials and employees as an additional insured, in the amount of $1 million per occurrence. Hardship waivers are available, see the insurance section in the guidelines. You may also be required to have workers compensation insurance, and disability and paid family leave benefits insurance under state law and we cannot waive those requirements or any similar state or local law requirements.

Does my event have to be accessible to people with disabilities?

Yes, your event must provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities to allow equal and independent access. For more information, see pages 104 to 106 of the NYC Commission on Human Rights Legal Enforcement Guidance on Discrimination on the Basis of Disability.

Can I have seats for the audience?

Yes, you can have seats. If you decide that the audience will stand, you must have some seats available for people with mobility impairments who require a reasonable accommodation.

The NYS DOH Interim Guidance for Small and Medium Scale Performing Arts and Entertainment During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has different requirements for arranging seated and standing audiences at outdoor events.

- Standing patrons: see page 8 of the NYS DOH Interim Guidance.

- Seated patrons: see page 7 of the NYS DOH Interim Guidance.

Can I use a stage or enclose my event?

Stages are permitted if they do not exceed 120 square feet in area and 2 feet in height.

You may enclose your event with temporary fencing or other delineators; however, you cannot prevent the public from viewing the event from outside of your event space.

You may request NYPD barricades from the local precinct where the event is taking place, however this barricade is limited and not guaranteed.

Why can’t I prevent members of the public from seeing it?

Because your event is taking place in public, you cannot completely barricade viewing from the public. However, you may create a designated viewing area with seats, benches, or decals to create a special experience for ticket or reservation holders.

Can we build semi-permanent structures outside our building similar to what restaurants have been able to set up? Can we set up seating and leave it?

All infrastructure and elements used for the event must be set up and dismantled and removed from the designated location during the permitted time frame. Elements cannot be left on the street overnight and events are not permissible on consecutive days.

Will the NYPD tow parked cars for my event?

It is your responsibility to pick up “No Parking” signage from the local NYPD Precinct in and put them up on your designated street in advance of your event.

You can request assistance with towing from the local precinct, but it is not guaranteed.

Am I responsible for cleaning up after my event?

Yes, it is your responsibility to ensure that the street is clean of debris and trash following your event.

Are public art installations permitted through the Open Culture initiative?

No. Organizations and artists interested in exhibiting a public art installation, including murals, sculptures, projections, and other interventions, within Open Streets, pedestrian plazas or on other NYC DOT property are welcome to apply to the NYC DOT Temporary Art Program. For more information on the application process, visit:

What impact do COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines have on my event?

Currently, state guidelines limit non-essential gatherings to 500 people for outdoor events. All Open Culture events are considered “non-essential gatherings.” All patrons/members of the audience count toward the 500-person limit; talent/performers and event staff do not count toward the limit. Applicants must follow all relevant city, state, and federal laws and guidance on COVID-19, including the NYS DOH Interim Guidance for Small and Medium Scale Performing Arts and Entertainment During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. For the purposes of the NYS DOH Interim Guidance, the Open Culture permittee is the “Responsible Party” and is responsible for complying with the NYS DOH Interim Guidance.

You must submit a COVID-19 Safety Affirmation Plan along with your application. That link is available here . In this document, you will affirm that you are taking steps to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 at your event including: distancing markers, face coverings, crowd control, etc. In addition, you must maintain and conspicuously post a COVID-19 site-safety plan on-site at the Open Culture location so that performers/talent and event staff can see it.

Is COVID-19 testing required for audiences and/or performers/talent and event staff?

Public-facing event staff, performers/talent, and event staff whose job functions or roles involve close contact with performers/talent, who are over the age of two, must have a negative COVID-19 test or be fully vaccinated, as follows:

- COVID-19 Test: a PCR test collected within 72 hours of the 1st performance/event -OR- an antigen test collected within 6 hours of the performance/event. Must provide proof to a designated employee. Negative tests weekly thereafter as long as actively working at the venue.

- COVID-19 Vaccine: Complete the COVID-19 vaccination series at least 14 days before the performance/event.

COVID-19 testing and vaccines are not required for patrons/audience members when the event is below the social gathering limit.

What are the health screening requirements?

A health screening is a series of questions and a temperature check. You must perform health screenings for all performers/talent, event staff, and patrons/audience members. See pages 26-27 of the NYS DOH Interim Guidance for Small and Medium Scale Performing Arts and Entertainment During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.

Can fully vaccinated* patrons, performers, and event staff take off their face coverings during the Open Culture Event?

New York State Guidance requires that Open Culture Permittees make a choice. Either

  • require social distancing and face coverings for everyone over the age of two who is medically able to tolerate one (see exception for performers, below**)


*“Fully vaccinated” means two or more weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (e.g., AstraZeneca/Oxford).

If you choose to adhere to the CDC’s Recommendations, you must either

  • rely upon self-reporting of vaccination status (e.g., honor system). An Open Culture Permittee that implements the “honor system” must communicate the requirements for unvaccinated individuals to all individuals at the Open Culture Event (e.g., orally, sign posted at the entrance, on the ticket, notice to performers/event staff). Note: Proof is required for Open Culture events with over 500 patrons.

Additional Details:


  • Parties of unvaccinated patrons must be spaced at least six feet from other parties of fully vaccinated or unvaccinated patrons.
  • Optional: Open Culture Permittees may choose to have a section reserved for fully vaccinated patrons and a separate section for unvaccinated patrons or patrons whose vaccination status is unknown.

EVENT STAFF (Including employees and contractors)

  • Fully vaccinated event staff have the option to wear a face covering, but they are not required to by law.


  • If all performers are fully vaccinated, they do not have to be socially distanced from each other on stage or backstage and they do not have to wear face coverings, including when not performing.
  • If all performers, event staff, and patrons are fully vaccinated, there are no social distancing requirements among performers, event staff, and patrons.
  • If some performers, event staff, and/or patrons are unvaccinated or vaccination status is unknown, the following rules apply:
    • **Performers may temporarily remove their face covering during performances, rehearsals, and other on-stage interactions, or when it may interfere with a core activity, such as hair, makeup, or wardrobe. Performers must put on face coverings as soon as practicable following those activities.
    • To the extent practicable, performers should maintain at least six feet of distance, or be separated by an appropriate physical barrier, from other performers during their performances. Further, performers who are not wearing a face covering during their performance (e.g., singing) or who are playing a wind, brass, or other breath-driven instrument should be separated from other performers by 12 feet or an appropriate physical barrier, and, as possible, not directly facing one another (e.g., band members, orchestra, choirs, panelists).
    • Where possible, musicians must wear masks throughout the performance (e.g., piano, guitar, cello).
    • In addition, the Open Culture Permittee must ensure that a distance of at least 12 feet is maintained, or that an appropriate physical barrier is installed, between performers and any patrons in the audience. Prohibit any direct, close contact interactions between patrons and performers.

Where can I get the signs that I am required to post at the Open Culture event?

Page 10 of the NYS DOH Interim Guidance for Small and Medium Scale Performing Arts and Entertainment During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency requires that you post health and safety signs at the Open Culture event site. You can use the NYS Department of Health sign, you can adapt the State’s sign, you can find Open Culture branded signs on MOME’s resource page, and you can find more signs on the NYC Health Department’s webpage .

What steps can I take to host my event safely?

Carefully review the NYS DOH Interim Guidance for Small and Medium Scale Performing Arts and Entertainment During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.

In addition to following applicable COVID-19 guidance from government health authorities, we encourage you to utilize a reservation or ticketing system to control attendance. A reservation and ticketing system can also help you comply with the audience health screening and communication plan requirements in the NYS DOH Interim Guidance.

If your event exceeds the non-essential gathering limit, it is your responsibility to shut down event programming to ensure crowding disperses. Failure to follow guidelines, rules, or laws may result in fines and denial of future permit applications.

I have an idea, but I ‘m not sure it works with this program. What can I do?

Please email with any questions.

Is my Open Culture event subject to union wages and other union rules?

Union wages and union rules are addressed by collective bargaining agreements between employers and unions. The Open Culture program does not alter these existing rules or agreements.