10 Licenses to Apply for Before Opening A Restaurant

A successful business starts by doing things right from the very beginning. The legalities vary from state to state and city to city, but when it comes to applying for the licenses and permits that you need to run a restaurant, it’s important to do your research so you don’t risk losing your business come inspection time.

Most restaurants have to apply for the same basic licenses and permits. When it comes to the paperwork you need to open a new business, here are ten applications you won’t want to forget.

1. Business license

This declares you as a legal entity in the eyes of the law; it’s what lets you hire employees and put them on the official payroll. The cost of a business license depends on your location, but it’s typically either a fixed annual fee or a percentage of total sales. You usually need to pay a registration fee too. Although you always need a state business license, restaurants also need a federal license if they’re selling alcohol on the premises. Apply for both online and make sure to set a reminder to renew them each year.

2. Food service license

Depending on your business, you might apply for a temporary, fixed or mobile food service license. Apply with your city or county health department where they’ll take your restaurant’s name, the kitchen’s permanent address and personal information on the owner. Then you need to have your place inspected before it’s approved, and be ready for annual inspections that ensure compliance down the line.

3. Seller’s permit

Register to receive a seller’s permit, also called a sales tax permit because it’s the license that identifies you as a sales tax collector within the state.

4. Resale permit

Make nontaxable purchases with a resale permit—which is different from a seller’s permit. Essentially, it allows you to buy and resell goods without paying double sales tax.

5. Certificate of Occupancy

When you pass your building inspection, you’ll receive a certificate of occupancy which effectively guarantees that your space is well-maintained and properly constructed. The specific requirements vary by jurisdiction; of course it’s easier to adhere to the rules if you’re inheriting the restaurant space rather than creating an entirely new business from the ground-up, but either way read up on the requirements on your state’s website to best ensure compliance.

6. Sign permit

Each state has its own rules about how and where you can put up advertisements including the size, lighting and location. You should probably also get permission from your landlord to hang signs in the storefront. When you advertise outside, make sure to hire a licensed contractor to install it and cross all your Ts with city hall.

7. Liquor license

If you’re selling alcohol on the premises, you need to have your liquor license squared away. Serving without a license or serving minors can result in a very hefty penalty fee and a revocation of your business license. You might need an additional beer and wine license too. This application can take months to process, so get a head start to make sure you’re square with the city control board before your grand opening.

8. Employee health permit

Everyone that handles food and beverage needs proper training with the guidelines laid out by the FDA. Employees also need to take a safe food handling course and get a registration that shows them how to properly deal with restaurant sanitation, storage and food handling.

9. Music license

No matter what type of music you’re playing at your restaurant—live, CD or via streaming service—you need to avoid copyright infringement. Pay the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers or Broadcast Music, Inc. through their websites to get your music license.

10. Live entertainment license

Slightly different from above, you’ll need a separate license for live entertainment. If you host concerts, dance exhibitions, comedy shows or anything else, get this license to put on shows during a meal.

These are just some of the more common licenses and permits you’ll need to open up a restaurant with all the necessary boxes checked. Also consider others like a pool table license, dumpster placement permit, building health permit and valet parking permit depending on what you want to install in your place of business

There’s a lot that goes into getting your papers squared away so that you’re ready to successfully open your restaurant. Just remember, the approval process for these things takes time. Get your license applications in early so you’re ready to hit the ground running once they get approved. Open the successful restaurant that you’ve been dreaming about without having to worry about red tape and bureaucracy, so you can focus on fantastic food service instead.

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