Business License and Other Local Requirements Go to Topics

Each city's business requirements vary. The following is a general description of these requirements.

Before you sign a lease or purchase equipment:

  • Verify that your proposed location complies with zoning requirements (including parking requirements and fire regulations).
  • Find out from the city building department if there are any code compliance issues.
  • If you are preparing food, talk with the County Environmental Health Department to verify that they will allow you to use existing equipment and facilities.

Zoning Permit    Usually you only need to get a zoning permit if you are changing the use of a building or if you are starting a home occupation business. Cities charge a nominal fee for home occupation permits ($50 is common). However businesses which want to change the existing use of a building may pay a fee, depending on the complexity of the request.

Business tax/license    Most cities require anyone who conducts business in their city to obtain a business license and pay a business tax each year. The initial business license fee is usually the minimum business tax plus an administrative fee. In future years, the business tax is based on gross receipts, number of employees, or other criteria. The exact criteria depends on your type of business and your city's policies.

Home occupation permits    Home occupation permits are usually issued by the Planning (or Community Development) Department and are required before you obtain a business license. Business owners must agree to comply with the city's home occupation restrictions. These generally include:

  • No visible sign of the business
  • No altering the home
  • A space limit for the business (example, 25% of the home)
  • No employees
  • No large deliveries or significant storage
  • Off-site parking for vehicles
  • No hazardous materials
  • Limitations on what business you can operate (example, no barbershops)

Contact the Planning Department for a complete list.

Sign permit    Many cities regulate the size, color, placement and number of signs you can display. This includes temporary signs and "sandwich boards" placed on the sidewalk. They may also require a building permit to install permanent signs. In general, home businesses cannot have business signs.

Other necessary permits    If you are making renovations or want to put a planter outside your door, chances are that you'll need a sign or building permit.

Fire inspections    Commercial buildings are inspected annually by the fire department. This service is generally free except for restaurants, bars, theaters, and other places of public assembly, which may be charged an annual fire permit.

Handling food    If you handle food in any way, you'll need a Health Permit. This is typically issued by the County Environmental Health Department.

Questions?    Please contact your local city or county.