Tents and Temporary Structures

During colder weather and as the coronavirus pandemic continues to challenge us, tents and temporary structures can be an option for some businesses to support physical distancing measures to support the health of employees and patrons. In the City of West Allis, the following guidelines apply when erecting tents or temporary structures on your premises:

Please Note:

    • Permit needed? NO
    • All other guidelines relating to tents and temporary structures apply to tents/temporary structures under 120 square feet, but no permit is required.
  • TENTS 120 - 400 SQ. FT.
    • Permit needed? YES
    • Tents and temporary structures over 120 square feet and within 5’ of a building are required to have a building permit from the Department of Building Inspection and Neighborhood Services (no fees apply).
  • TENTS OVER 400 SQ. FT.
    • Permit needed? YES
    • Tents and Temporary Structures over 400 square feet are required to have a permit from the Fire Department. A Fire Department permit for a temporary structure is $20, plus a permit initiation fee of $10.


  • Tents and Temporary Structures are allowed for 180 days, and shall be located completely on private property.
  • All tent fabric shall be flame resistant. Markings or certificates of flame resistance shall be provided upon request by an inspector. 
  • Flammable or combustible liquids may not be stored in a tent nor less than 50 feet from any tent used for public assembly.
  • Smoking is prohibited in any tent or in any adjacent areas where hay, straw, alfalfa, saw dust or other highly combustible materials are kept or stored.  Approved “No Smoking” signs shall be conspicuously posted.  No fireworks, open flame, or other device emitting a flame or fire may be used in or immediately adjacent to any tent while open to the public, except upon special permission from the Fire Chief.
  • Portable fire extinguishing equipment of approved types shall be furnished and maintained in tents in such quantity and in such locations as directed by the Fire Chief.
  • There shall be a minimum of 10 feet between stake lines.
  • The tent should only be for the extension of patron seating areas. 
  • No food preparations activities allowed outside of the regular kitchen space(s) (ie no cooking, storing food, no food handling, no buffets, no salad bars) 
  • No bar wait service stations, no beverage service other than maybe bottle service, additions of bar service area would need approvals/plan review from the Health Department. (may require hand sinks at minimum for bar service in the tent) 
  • Questions? Food licensed establishments should contact the Environmental Health division of the Health Department at 414-302-8600.


  • Tent location shall be approved by the Development Department, Building Inspection and Neighborhood Services Department, and Fire Department prior to installation.
  • Vehicles may not be parked within 50 feet of a tent, unless they are parked on a public street.
  • Tents shall not be located on, or restrict access to, fire lanes, fire department connections, or any other life safety elements that are required to be accessible.


  • Tents which require the occupants of the main building to egress through them shall be provided with exit signs, emergency lighting, and a clear unobstructed egress path through the tent to an exit.
  • Tents with an occupant load of 50 or more are required to have exit signs, emergency lights and two exits, regardless of if the occupants of the main building are required to exit through it.
  • Tents over 400 square feet with more than 50% of the perimeter covered with side covers shall have exit signs and emergency lighting.
  • Tents are required to have a maximum exit travel distance of 100 feet.

Other Code Requirements

  • Tents are required to be able to withstand all loads including wind and snow loads.  Tents are required to withstand snow drift loads from adjacent taller buildings.
  • Propane tanks for portable heaters are required to be located at least 5’ away from the tent.
  • Propane heaters are typically not listed for use inside of a tent. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions for proper placement, installation and use for all heating appliances.  All heaters are required to be rated for commercial use
  • Ventilation is required based on the occupant load of the tent or temporary structure.  This can be accomplished via a powered ventilation fan or through openings in the tent walls.
  • If the tent will increase the occupant load of the business, toilet rooms will have to be analyzed to ensure the proper number of toilet facilities is provided for the new occupant load.

Click here to apply for Fire Department Tent Permit.

Download and Apply for Building Permit (PDF)

Download and Print Temporary Structure Informational Flyer (PDF)