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Why Now Is the Right Time to Digitize Your City’s Special Events Permitting

Special events permitting is oftentimes neglected by City Hall’s digital permitting operations, and it’s easy to see why. A typical special event — anything from a marathon to a political rally to a weekend music festival — requires multiple permits issued by multiple departments, complex scheduling and approvals, location and route details, and more.

In short: It’s complicated.

Because of the difficulty inherent in digitally mapping these complexities, special events permitting is usually left out of digital permitting solutions. And so, the most complicated permitting process ends up being managed via the most archaic means: paper (and lots of it).

Thankfully, there’s now a digital solution available that’s fit to handle the unique requirements of special events permitting, whatever city-specific details apply. And now is the time to make the change and modernize your city’s special events permitting.

Before we continue, we should be clear — when we say “now,” we literally mean right now, spring and summer 2021. Why the urgency? We were hoping you’d ask.

The Return of Large-scale Special Events Will Mean a Flood of New Applications

The pandemic fatigue you’re feeling? Guess what — everyone else is feeling it, too. People are raring to get back to concerts, community celebrations, races, you name it. Thanks to the ongoing vaccine rollout picking up a lot of steam, the return of small-scale events has already begun in some cities, and we can expect the return of large-scale events later this year.

And when that time comes, there is every reason to believe that people won’t return to special events in a trickle, but in a flood.

So if your city isn’t ready to tackle the all-hands-on-deck behemoths that are special events, that flood is going to cause real problems. Permit discovery questions, troves of paperwork, countless applicant appointments, hours spent reviewing and coordinating application approvals with other departments — these will all cause bottlenecks that bog down not only your permitting operations, but all of the other important work done at City Hall.

Demand for Digital Agility Has Increased During the Pandemic

The evolving nature of the pandemic has required public health directives to evolve as well. So for the well-being of your community as we inch closer to the other side of the pandemic, special events must be compliant — no matter how regulations continue to change.

Because these directives weren’t applicable before spring 2020, they’re likely not part of established special event permitting processes — and that is now a huge liability.

Managing shifting directives requires a level of agility that — if we may be so bold — your existing process likely cannot manage. (It’s not you, it’s the paper. We swear.) An event that was compliant at the time of conception, application, review, and issuance may now require changes. Think of the work needed to sift through all of the issued permits and applicants in the pipeline to coordinate all the necessary parties who need to replan, reapply, rereview, and reissue as necessary. Yikes.

Time Is Running Out to Upgrade Your Special Events Permitting Operations

With vaccine distribution accelerating, it’s only a matter of time until the flood of special events hits. Like the calm before the storm, it’s time to get ready. Here’s the silver lining for you: System overhauls are easier and quicker to implement when the volume is low, like now (remember, right now).

It may seem counterintuitive to pour resources into upgrading a service that isn’t currently highly used. But remember, special event permit applications aren’t low due to lack of interest, but due to the external limitations of a once-a-century pandemic. Digitizing isn’t a risky attempt to generate demand — the demand is already there, and growing!

Bottom line: When the time comes, given the pain inherent in the process, the coming complications, and the opportune moment for change, can you even imagine running special events permitting on paper?

Luckily, that paper-filled world doesn’t have to be your reality, thanks to OpenCounter’s Special Events Portal. Here’s how we take the headache out of special events permitting for city staff and applicants alike.

Powerful Route and Area Builders

Planning a marathon and need to make sure the route isn’t one inch longer than 26.22 miles? Our easy-to-use map interface — the first of its kind on the market — lets applicants select predefined areas on the map based on event type, or draw their own proposed routes through the city.

Intuitive Scheduling Tools

OpenCounter’s intuitive date and time selectors let applicants specify the start time and duration of their event — including setup and breakdown time frames needed for inspections and approvals — taking the headache out of a complex scheduling process.

Seamless Review Processes

Our portal brings together all the departments involved in the special event permitting and review process, making it easy to keep the cascade of approvals moving — from the Police and Fire Departments to the Special Events Office to the Office of the Mayor and beyond.

One Portal to Rule Them All

The applicant experience has never been easier. With OpenCounter, everything from permit discovery to real-time fee calculation and permit issuance is handled within the portal. No more phone calls. No more lines at City Hall. Applicants simply complete their applications and pay online, then download their permits and receipts after their applications have been approved.

Localization in 36 Languages

To ensure everyone in your local community can use this platform, OpenCounter’s inclusive portal can be fully translated into 36 languages — from Spanish and Chinese to Ukrainian and Vietnamese.

OpenCounter: Your Special Events Permitting Partner

OpenCounter has become the virtual permitting counter for municipalities across the country — from​ ​Cincinnati​​ to ​Miami​ and from Detroit to Fort Worth. That’s because our​ ​suite of portals makes it easy for everyone to understand the permit discovery process, which permits they need, how much each of them costs, and how to apply.

Plus, our products are backed by OpenCounter’s in-house team of public sector experts — people with deep knowledge of all things zoning, permitting, and licensing. We know how complex every single one of these processes is, the headaches and inefficiencies they’re causing your team, and we know exactly how to ease those burdens. More specifically, we understand why special events permitting is a special kind of headache, and we know how to alleviate it.

See for yourself how OpenCounter can modernize your zoning, permitting, and licensing systems, leading to greater efficiency and happier citizens.​ ​Get in touch and schedule a discovery session with us today.


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Learn how to find the right solutions partner to enhance your ERP, save time and resources, and ultimately deliver a greater impact on the communities you serve.

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