Permits And Licenses – What You Need To Open The Door

Permits And Licenses - What You Need To Open The Door

Opening a new restaurant is an exciting and busy time.

Congratulations! You’re ready to open a restaurant. You’ve got the menu, your restaurant concept, the location, investors, and your marketing materials. You’re ready to open your doors, right? Not so fast.

Before you can welcome those first diners, you have a bit more legwork. In this article, we look at permits and licenses and what you need to open the door to your restaurant.

Step 1: The Business License

The first type of license you need is the business license. Every single restaurant needs this before they can open and operate their restaurant.

This is what tells the federal government that you’re a new business. It legitimizes you, and it makes your restaurant official. Above all, it gives you permission from the government to open and operate your restaurant.

The business license is issued to your restaurant from your local city or state government, and you can’t open your restaurant without this. You’ll find it accompanied by a fee that includes both your registration fee and your filing fee. Count on paying up to several thousand dollars for this license.

In addition, you’ll find that the cost and regulations around your licensing vary state by state. You can get your license by doing an internet search. You can also check the Small Business Administration’s website for more information. If you’d rather forego the internet, go to your city hall and get your license in person. Don’t forget to renew this license on an annual basis.

Do note that if your restaurant sells alcohol, you will also have to obtain a federal business license in addition to your state business license.

Step 2: The Foodservice License

The health department in your city is where you’re going to go for this license. You will need to fill out a lot of paperwork to get the ball moving on your foodservice license.

Many restaurant owners feel some anxiety about this license because it involves someone coming and checking on your restaurant to make sure you are following all food safety regulations. Do remember that they will come back to your restaurant on occasion to double check you are still abiding by all the rules.

To apply for this license, you can also apply online with your city. The fees for this permit are usually based on the size and classification of your restaurant and its location. Count on paying anywhere from $100-$1000 for your foodservice license.

Step #3: The Liquor License

If you’re going to sell liquor at your restaurant, you will have to have a liquor license. Like the foodservice license, this one comes with many strings attached. (tweet this)

To sell liquor, you have to maintain this license on an ongoing basis. To find out what you have to do to get this license, and how to keep it, you’ll need to check with your state.

The liquor license is not an easy license to procure. It’s also very easy to lose this license in an instant. To get and keep this permit, you have to make sure you’re following your state’s ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) laws. They regulate the sale of alcohol in every state.

You can lose this license for many reasons including selling liquor to minors, over serving people and having them get too drunk, disorderly conduct, allowing underage servers to serve liquor, selling at unauthorized times, and many others.

It only takes one mistake to lose this license, so do everything you can to stay above the law.

Finally, the cost of the liquor license varies from state to state, but it usually comes with a hefty price into the tens of thousands and more.

Step #4: The Food Handler’s Permit

This is another essential permit to have before you open your doors.

A Food Handler’s Permit must be obtained by each of your employees. It’s a food safety certification permit, and each member of your team must take a class to get this permit. It’s a very important permit for every employee.

Once your team members have this permit, they are well-versed in the regulations for food sanitation, preparation, storage, and protection.

This is not a hard permit for your staff to get, and it usually doesn’t cost very much and is often free. Each state in the United States has different requirements for the fold handler permit and class. Check with your state to see how your employees can get this certification.

Finally, make note if these have to be renewed and when to stay compliant, and always have your new team members get their food handlers permits.

Step #5: The Building Health Permit

You know you have to have your restaurant inspected for your food service license, but you also need it inspected for a building health permit. This isn’t required in all states, so be sure to check your local regulations.

You would apply for this permit from your city or county health department when you go to get your business license.  The fee for this can be upwards of $1000.

Permits And Licenses

Take immaculate care of your restaurant so you always pass any inspections.

Step #6: The EIN (Employer Identification Number)

This is an easy one, and it’s free. Before you can open your restaurant, you need an employee identification number. You get this through the IRS because it’s your business tax ID number.

It’s easy to apply for this online as well.

Step #7: The Music License

If you want to play music at your restaurant, you need this license to avoid being charged with copyright infringement. The fines for copyright infringement can be hefty, ranging from $750 well into the tens of thousands.

This is a simple license that many restaurant owners forget about. Do go ahead with it, though, so you stay in line with copyright regulations. Fees for this license are usually around $250.

Final Thoughts

While there are many costs and quite a few permits and licenses to obtain before you open the door to your new restaurant, the benefits far outweigh the hassle of going through the process to obtain them. (tweet this)

Be organized and keep a list of all the permits and licenses you need. Do your research and make sure you are compliant with both local, state and federal regulations. Missing a permit that you need can delay the opening of your restaurant and even occur fines.

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Images: Igor Starkov and Thomas Tucker on Unsplash

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