Acquiring the Necessary Permits to Open Your Restaurant
One of the most challenging parts of opening a food service business is obtaining all of the required permits and licenses needed to operate. However, it is a necessary task because without them you are not allowed to open and serve the public. The requirement of obtaining a license and permit is set up to ensure that employees, customers and residents of the area are kept safe and that the business operates properly.
There are some permits that will be required regardless of where you live, but some will vary depending on your location and the choices you make for your business. Contacting the local agencies in charge of the licenses and permits will help you learn exactly which ones you need to obtain and what the process will be. The following is a partial list of the permits you may need, there may be others depending on the type of restaurant or your location.
Building or Zoning Permit
These permits will definitely be required if you are building a business from scratch rather than purchasing an existing building. They may also be required if you are planning to do any construction on an already established building. You should contact your city zoning officials to determine whether or not you have to acquire this permit.
Most cities, counties and states will require you to have a business license in order to operate a food establishment of any type. The license that you need will vary depending upon the area in which you operate. The city or county clerk can direct you towards which license you will need and how to go about obtaining it.
Federal Employer Identification Number
Though this is not a permit, it is a requirement that you must adhere to. Prior to opening your food service business you must contact the IRS and obtain your federal employer identification number. This will help the government identify you as a business for tax purposes.
Food Handler Permit
Cities and states require that someone in your restaurant have a food handler permit. The laws vary for different states, and at times they vary between the city and the state. It is always best to obtain the food handler permits required by the stricter rule requirements. Some states, like California, require all restaurant workers that deal with unwrapped foods, to have a food handler permit. In most cases, it is best for the restaurant owner and manager to both have food handling permits. This means that he or she has studied all the rules pertaining to restaurant food safety and has passed the test. This permit must be on site and available to a health inspector at all times.
The Department of Health will require that you have a permit prior to opening up your business. This often takes over a month to acquire and requires you to submit detailed information in order to obtain it. You will need to have a floor plan and your menu set up before you apply. You will also be required to pass an inspection. Contact your local health department for further requirements and the necessary documents.
If you plan to serve any alcoholic beverages at your establishment, you will need a liquor license. The requirements for this license vary based on your location and can be a long and challenging process. You may need a separate license for each type of alcohol you are serving, or you may need a different license depending on the type of establishment you are running. There are many other rules regulating the sale of liquor that vary greatly from state to state and within counties, it is important to get the information you will need from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in your location. This license must be obtained before you open your doors if you plan on serving alcohol
If you plan to provide any copyrighted music, regardless of the method used, you will need a music license. This license is required even if your only music is karaoke. Failure to have one can result in substantial fines. Some exemptions and licensing discounts do apply, so you should contact your local restaurant association to find out.
As a part of the process of being inspected, the fire department will inspect your property for fire hazards dangers and flammable hazards. Once you have been approved they will issue you a fire certificate.