RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia has new rules for events on Capitol Square, including changes to when a permit is needed and how far ahead people need to submit their applications.

Advocacy groups and people have held events at Capitol Square, the public area surrounding the Capitol, for several years, most notably during Lobby Day.

The state’s Department of General Services (DGS) said Thursday that the regulations formalize several practices and replace rules that had been in place since 1970.

The new rules formally set previous DSG policies limiting events to an hour, with 30 minutes before and after for setting up and taking down items, requiring all events to be held at the Bell Tower and only allowing one to take place at a time.

Capitol Square’s hours of operation have been officially set for 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and permit requests will be considered by DGS on a first-come, first-served basis under the regulations.

Permits are no longer needed for events with one to nine participants, only for those with 10 or more people. The changes also require DGS to respond to permit requests within five days — except in certain cases — and set timeframes to apply.

DGS said the process of updating the regulations began in August 2020 and there was a public hearing last October before the changes went into effect on May 25. DGS Director Joe Damico said the changes will help bolster security and ensure the safety of people in the area during events.

“This revised regulation strikes the right balance of protecting people’s rights to gather on Capitol Square and our ability to ensure it is done safely,” Damico said in a statement.

According to DGS, changes in the new regulation include:

  • A permit is required for any event with 10 or more people (previous regulation requires a permit for an event with one or more individuals)  
  • Outlines times for permitted events (sunrise to sunset, within the hours of 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. when Capitol Square is open to the public)
  • Permit applications must be submitted six days in advance of the planned events that are expected to draw fewer than 1,000 participants
  • Permit applications must be submitted 45 days in advance of events that are anticipated to have 1,000 or more participants
  • An applicant can request an exception to these submission deadlines for a spontaneous event as long as certain criteria are met, including outlining why the event reasonably did not allow an earlier application submission 
  • Applications will be accepted up to 180 days before the permitted event (previous regulation did not include a submission deadline) 
  • DGS has five days to respond to permit requests, except in the case of spontaneous events or those that require additional department or law enforcement review