What Licenses Will I Need to Open a Restaurant?

One quick way to have your restaurant operation shut down is to be found without the proper licenses. Don’t make the mistake of opening up shop without first inquiring with your city or county clerk about the required licenses. There are many different types available, which means you could end up having to apply and pay for multiple licenses before you begin serving the public. Here are some of the licenses you may be required to obtain:

  • Occupancy or building license: This is issued by fire commissioners, which is given if your building passes an inspection. Your building must have clearly marked and working fire escapes, emergency exits and fire extinguishers. It may also have to be able to withstand a flood, tornado or earthquake.
  • Liquor license: If you plan to sell alcohol, you will need one of these. In some cities, there is a limit to how many liquor licenses that can be given in a particular neighborhood. So make sure you’re able to get one before you choose a location.
  • Cabaret license: If your restaurant will feature live music, you will need to apply for this type of license. Even if you have an upscale restaurant with a jazz trio, you’ll still need a similar license, which covers rules regarding performer and patron safety.
  • Music license: If your restaurant will play pre-recorded or live music, you first have to get a license from a music clearinghouse like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.
  • Franchise or trademark license: There are two types of restaurants — trademark and franchise. If you have your very own business brand, then you’d fall under the trademark category.

Owning a restaurant comes with great responsibility. Not only are you required to have specific licenses, but gear as well. You can purchase reasonably priced restaurant essentials (menus, napkin rings, etc.) from bulk retailers like Restaurant Discount Warehouse.

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