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The City of Portland, Oregon

Development Services

From Concept to Construction

Phone: 503-823-7300


1900 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97201

More Contact Info

Life Safety/Building Code

The building code sorts the ways that buildings are used into separate "occupancy classifications". Every building is given an occupancy classification when it is built, and each occupancy classification has different building code requirements that go along with it. A "change of occupancy" is when there is a change in the building's use that would place it in a different occupancy classification.

The building code classifies a coffee shop/café/restaurant as one of two "occupancies". "A2 occupancies" are where there is a room with 50 or more occupants, as calculated by the code. In general, a table and chair seating area larger than 750 square feet will result in an A2 occupancy classification whereas a drinking and dining establishment with a seating area of less than 750 square feet can be classified as a "B occupancy", which has much less restrictive requirements. A 750 square foot table and chair seating area is assumed, by the code, to have 50 occupants.

Establishments that have a seating area less than 750 square feet but that have dance floors and similar "standing" areas, can end up being classified as assembly uses. That is because floor areas like dance floors, that are designed to be used by patrons but are kept open without furniture, are looked at as occupied even more densely than standard seating areas. For more information on how the occupant load of your particular use might be calculated, visit the Development Services Center with a rough layout, and meet with a Life Safety Reviewer.

The building code/life safety requirements for a drinking and dining establishment having a room with more than 50 occupants are much more restrictive.

The building code requires a drinking cafe with a seating area of 450 square feet or more to provide separate restrooms for men and women. An appeal may be possible if the seating area is not much over 450 square feet and there is just not the space to add a restroom. View more information on the building code appeal process.