Venue Policies

Convention Center: Guidelines

When it comes to the next event you host at Walter E. Washington Convention Center, we have policies and guidelines that we ask you follow regarding:

Animals are not permitted in the Convention Center, except in conjunction with an approved exhibit, as service animals for individuals with disabilities, or to assist law enforcement personnel.

Service Animals

Service Animals are authorized for use in The Convention Center. Listed below is the Convention Center’s policy regarding service animals.

  • Dogs are the exclusive animals allowed to be used as service animals.   
  • Owners must always control the movement of animals (i.e., harnessed, leashed, tethered, or responsive to voice commands).
  • Dogs that exhibit aggressive behavior are prohibited.
  • Dogs must be housebroken.
  • The Convention Center staff has the right to inquire if the dog is a qualified service animal.
  • Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support are prohibited.
  • Failure to comply with the above guidelines or other reasonable requests, The Convention Center’s Public Safety staff may result in the dog’s removal from the premises.


Animals used in Exhibits

  • All animals (including exotic) must have written authorization and approval by The Convention Center in conjunction with an approved exhibit.
  • Animals approved must be on a leash, within a pen, or under similar control. Owner is fully responsible for obtaining all appropriate permits, sanitary needs for the animals and additional insurance requirements.

All materials used for decorating, including drapes, curtains, table coverings, skirts, carpet, etc. must be flameproof retardant, or treated with an approved fire-retardant solution. Fire retardancy certificates are required and must always be on site. Random testing may be performed periodically by the District of Columbia Fire Marshal.

Additional décor guidelines include:

  • Decorations and signage may not be taped, nailed, or secured to any permanent surface.
  • Adhesive-backed decals or stickers may not be distributed anywhere by anyone in the building.
  • Glitter is not allowed in the Convention Center.
  • Confetti may not be used in carpeted areas of the Convention Center without prior written approval; additional cleaning fees will be assessed.
  • All adhesive décor and window cling material, along with its placement, must be approved by The Convention Center a minimum of 30 days prior to the first move-in date.
  • Dirt or similar elements used as part of an exhibit, must be fully removed by the event’s final move-out date.

Lighted candles may only be used at special events (i.e. banquets, receptions) following these guidelines:

  • Candles must have a solid base, and flames must be enclosed in a fire-resistant vessel.
  • Candles must be placed on stable surfaces.
  • Acceptable candle examples include votive and “hurricane lamp.”
  • Non-acceptable candles include tapered candles, candelabras, and votives hanging from décor.
  • Samples of all candles must be submitted in advance to the Event Manager for approval.
  • Open flame devices such as lighted candles, lighters or sparklers are not permitted in exhibit booths.

Helium balloons used to decorate a booth, must be pre-approved, tethered, and securely fastened to an object in a booth, on stage, etc.  Additional fees apply for the retrieval of unsecured balloons. Helium tanks are not allowed inside The Convention Center.

  • Helium balloons may not be distributed in the Convention Center.
  • Balloons are not allowed to be used as promotional gifts or given to attendees.
  • Water-based chemical fog, smoke machines and lasers are permitted, with advance approval by The Convention Center.
  • Fog and smoke machines may not be operated in Common Areas that may affect other shows; final approval will be at the discretion the Convention Center.   
  • Laser locations, with access to a water source, are permitted with advance notification.
  • Schedules for use of fog and smoke machines, and lasers (inclusive of rehearsals and event times) must be submitted to the Event Manager 90 days prior to the first move-in day, to ensure appropriate inspections and ventilation measures are taken.

The use of pyrotechnics is strictly controlled and monitored and must be approved in advance by The Convention Center. Customers requesting the use of pyrotechnics, must hire a federally licensed pyrotechnics contractor, and must obtain all relevant permits from the DCFD Fire Prevention Division, and submit to Event Management.

Sales tax must be collected during any part of an event that includes the sale of merchandise. Consumer Show Managers must submit a special event registration application with the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue in advance of the event and must provide information regarding sales tax collection to their exhibitors.

  • Form FR-500B, special event registration application, may be obtained by visiting the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue’s special events office or online.
  • For more information on Special Event Form FR-500B head to and click “Special Events/ Promoter”

Show Management is required to hire medical services, from an exclusive list of medical providers that will be supplied by Events DC, throughout the license period including move-in, event days and move out. The medical providers are licensed, bonded and insured in the District of Columbia and are knowledgeable on the processes and polices as listed in the Events DC License Agreement and Event Planning Guide.

  • Permanent First Aid rooms are in Exhibit Hall A and Exhibit Hall D
  • Both rooms are accessible from inside the halls and the loading docks 
  • Each first aid location contains standard equipment: exam table, refrigerator, wheelchair, water cooler, private restroom, and telephone
  • Customers without access to Hall A or Hall D first aid rooms should designate a temporary location on the show floor or near the event.

Show management is required to hire an independent company to provide event security and crowd management services throughout the licensed period including move-in, events days and move out.  The following criteria must be met:

  • Security service providers must be licensed, bonded and insured in the District of Columbia.
    • Individual officers must be licensed.
  • The event security deployment plan must be submitted 60 days prior to the first day of move-in. The plan must include dates, times, assigned posts, and number of supervisors. Upon review of the plan, additional security personnel may be required.  
  • Security personnel must be posted inside exhibit halls, throughout the licensed period.
  • Prompt notification of all incidents is required by The Convention Center’s Public Safety Division.
  • Proper uniforms, identification, and a professional demeanor is required.
  • Security personnel hired must be trained in the schematics and logistics of the facility.
  • Security must be equipped to deploy additional personnel as required.
  • Security personnel must attend scheduled briefings and operational meetings.
  • Security personnel must abide by The Convention Center’s rules of professional conduct.
  • Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer(s) are required to be stationed at active cash handling locations including box offices, registration areas, on-site stores, exhibit halls and kiosks, etc.
  • Uniformed, District of Columbia MPD officers are the primary source for armed security services. These services must be approved in writing by the Center’s Vice President of Public Safety.
  • Upon request, a list of preferred security providers may be obtained from your Sales Manager or Event Manager        

District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)

To promote safe and orderly conduct during events, contracted independent security companies must meet the following criteria: 

  • MPD officers are required to be stationed at active cash handling locations including box offices, registration areas, on-site stores and kiosks, etc. The Convention Center’s Public Safety Division will coordinate with Show Management for the hiring and billing of MPD services.
  • Uniformed, MPD officers are the primary source for armed security services. These services must be approved in writing by The Convention Center’s Vice President, Public Safety.

Crate Storage and Boneyards are permitted in exhibit hall’s leased space, and on loading docks with advance written approval by the Event Manager and The Convention Center. Crate storage and boneyards must be identified on exhibit hall floor plans submitted for approval. Note: Audio/Visual (AV) equipment may not be stored adjacent to walls or doors.

Designated storage areas must be configured as follows:

  • Not to exceed 20’ W x 20’L x 12’H.
  • A minimum distance of a 20’ wide continuous aisle, is required from the exhibit hall entryway, to the crate storage or boneyard area.
  • A 10 ft. clear aisle (minimum) is required around all the sides of the storage area, not including the side positioned against a wall.
  • Exits, fire emergency and mechanical equipment may not be blocked or partially obstructed at any time.
  • Fire extinguishers must be available at the inception of developing the storage area.
  • As with every, non-cooking storage area, the following requirements must be met with respect to fire extinguishers: 
  1. Must contain one fully charged 3A40BC fire extinguisher for every 200 square feet of storage.
  2. In the instance of any storage area that is 20' x 20' crate island requires a minimum of two fire extinguishers.  No single crate storage area may exceed 20’ x 20’.
  3. Must be mounted securely and its location clearly labeled and indicated so it may be used in an emergency.

Additional Crate and Boneyard Storage Guidelines

  • Storage of loose scrap, waste, debris, or packing materials, is only permitted in sealed crates.
  • Storage of flammable or combustible materials, mixtures, liquids, gases, hazardous or medical waste is not permitted in any location in the Convention Center.
  • Storage of carpet rolls is permitted in boneyard approved areas.
  • Gas cylinders (empty or full) must be stored in approved temporary cages. The location must be confirmed, in advance, by the Convention Center’s Transportation Services Department.
  • The official GSC is responsible for maintaining the cleanliness and safety of the crate and boneyard storage areas.
  • Crates and AV equipment must move throughout the facility, via back of house service doors, unless otherwise approved. No large AV or “gang” boxes may enter through the front decorative wooden doors.

Loading Dock Bay Storage

  • Crate storage locations are permitted in exhibit halls A/B/C/D/E, based on availability, and at the discretion of the Convention Center.
  • Storage is not permitted in bays which contain trash compactors, open-top trash containers or other building equipment.
  • Storage is prohibited exhibit halls A/B/C, bays 4, 5 and 6, reserved for Ballroom access
  • Dimensions must be contained within the footprint of the bay, not to exceed 8' H from loading dock platform.
  • Halls D and E dock bays may not extend beyond the overhang of the hard ceiling. 
  • For every 200 sq. ft. of storage, one fully charged 3A30BC fire extinguisher must be visible and accessible.  This is in addition to the one ABC fire extinguisher, mounted for every two bays throughout the facility. 
  • Access to fire exits and fire extinguishers must never be blocked.
  • Storage must not block access for emergency or trash removal vehicles, or Center equipment.
  • Crates may not be stored in bays containing load leveling systems, or trash/recycling receptacles.
  • Propane powered equipment must be stored on loading docks and other approved areas by the Convention Center Public Safety Division.

Loading Dock Apron/Platform Storage

  • Fiber cases, cartons, and boneyard storage are permitted, if stored within the painted yellow lines on the floor and walls. They must comply with the Fire Extinguisher Requirements guidelines indicated in Exhibit Hall Storage section.
  • Storage must not block life safety equipment, doors, mechanical, electrical, ventilation, or vending areas.
  • Crate and boneyard storage is not permitted in the following areas:  against the perimeter walls of the loading dock roadway, or on the exhibit hall drive-in ramps
  • Slurry wall storage against the wall, is permitted with prior approval of The Convention Center’s Transportation Services Department.

Fire Watch Attendant  

Dedicated fire watch attendants are trained to operate fire extinguishers and staffing is required during non-show hours for all crate storage locations inside exhibit halls and loading docks. Event Security officers may serve as fire watch attendants. Attendants must be briefed on these locations:

  • Nearest standpipe or fire hose connection
  • Nearest fire hose cabinet
  • Nearest house telephone station
  • Location of fire extinguishers in the crate and boneyard storage area

Event Security officers, who have obtained the necessary training to react in a fire emergency, may serve as fire watch attendants.  

Exhibitor lists should be sent to the Event Manager when the exhibit booth sales have begun. The exhibitor list should include:

  • Contact information must include: company name, contact, phone, email, and exhibit booth number.
  • Exhibitor list will be distributed to the Service Partners who provide electrical, plumbing, technology, and catering services to the exhibitors.
  • The Convention Center may periodically survey the exhibitors about their experiences at The Convention Center in order improve the quality of our customer service. The list is for internal use only, and never resold or distributed to other entities.
  • Exhibitor kit links should be forwarded to the Event Manager for reference.

Medical testing is permitted with advance written approval from The Convention Center in conjunction with an event.

  • Medical tests must be performed by licensed practitioners.
  • The use of animal or human organs or body parts must conform to federal and local regulations.
  • All medical waste must be removed by Show Management at the end of the event according to federal and local regulations.


Exhibit booths that are multi-story, covered assembly areas (i.e., conference areas or theatres), or storage closets, are permitted in the exhibit halls, provided the following regulations are met:

  • Enclosed areas must be protected by audible smoke detectors.
  • Enclosed areas must contain a porous roof or cover, in order for The Convention Center’s sprinkler system to activate, in case of an emergency.
  • Enclosed areas must display a charged fire extinguisher, minimum rating of 3A40BC. A fire prevention attendant must be on duty at all times that the exhibit hall is closed, from move-in to move-out.
  • Maximum occupancy of the second floor, load-bearing areas:
    • One person per 15 sq. ft. of floor space, not to exceed 25 persons
    • Maximum occupancy numbers must be visibly posted.
  • Two means of egress are required from each load bearing area, covered or uncovered assembly, in excess of 400 sq. ft., unless otherwise approved by The Convention Center.
  • Copies of exhibit plans must be submitted to The Convention Center at least 90 days prior to installation, certified and sealed by a licensed structural engineer or licensed architect. Plans will be reviewed and by The Convention Center and subsequently the DCFD Fire Prevention Division for approval. If the compliance regulations are not met, The Convention Center has the authority to end the work and prohibit occupancy. 

Liquid or gas-fueled vehicles, equipment, boats or other motorcycles must adhere to the following regulations when displayed or stored inside The Convention Center:

  • Batteries must be disconnected.
  • Maximum fuel allowed: not to exceed one-quarter tank or five gallons (19L), whichever is less.
  • Fuel tanks and fill openings must be closed and sealed to prevent tampering (duct tape is a viable option).
  • Vehicles on display may not be fueled or defueled in The Convention Center.
  • Show Management is responsible for obtaining a Vehicles on Display permit from DCFD and accountable for the enforcement action of this regulation. Failure to comply with any of the above requirements is the sole responsibility of Show Management.