What Licenses Do I Need To Open A Restaurant?

“What licenses do I need to open a restaurant?” This is the question you start to ask when your restaurant concept starts to take shape. Brace yourself because there’s going to be a lot of paperwork and waiting involved. A lot of the permits discussed below vary by state in terms of the application process and costs so be sure to check with your local government. 

Page Contents

Business License


This essentially allows you to operate your business legally within a specific geographic jurisdiction. Your business license will come from the city where your restaurant will be located. It can go from $25 all the way to $7,000 not including the processing fee, which is around $50. Go to the SBA website for more information. If you will sell alcohol in your restaurant, a federal business licence and a state business license might be required in addition to a liquor license, which will discuss below.

Employer Identification Number

Issued by the Internal Revenue Service, an EIN is a nine-digit number unique to your business that essentially allows you to hire and pay your employees and file your restaurant’s tax return. Having an EIN helps tremendously with opening a business bank account and getting a business loan. Plus, it is useful when racking up business credit. Getting an EIN is free, and you can jumpstart the process online, by contacting IRS through fax, or phone. Apply early: only one EIN is given per day.

Foodservice License

Foodservice License

Since you are opening a restaurant, you will absolutely need a foodservice license from your state’s health department. This certifies that you are running a safe and proper food business. To get a foodservice license, you are required to pass a health inspection. Part of getting your business up to code is getting the proper kitchen equipment and systematic kitchen design, visit Ckitchen.com if you are interesting. You can start your application online or by visiting your state’s health department or the FDA. This license will cost around $100 to $1,000.

Food Handler’s Permit


This is to ensure that your restaurant follows all food safety principles by knowing proper sanitation, storage, and handling. To obtain a food handler’s permit, on-site staff like managers or owners or any employees that work with food must pass an FDA-approved training course that typically covers proper hygiene, food hazards, proper food temperature control, and cleaning and sanitation A food handler’s permit costs around $100 to $500.

Certificate of Occupancy

It’s not enough that your kitchen is safe for food production. Your restaurant itself must also be safe for people to be in. Whether you will set up shop in a new or used building, your local building or zoning department will inspect the construction including the plumbing and electrical, and fire safety. The certificate of occupancy will not be issued until everything is up to the standards.

Certificate of Occupancy

Building Health Permit

This is to ensure that your restaurant conforms to proper sanitation and food management practices. Having proper food storage is important here so high-quality refrigeration like a Traulsen refrigerator will be an asset to your kitchen safety and building health efforts. Not every state requires a business to get a building health permit. When they do, it is generally owners that are building a brand new construction that are asked to obtain one. 

Liquor License


If you plan to serve alcohol in your restaurant, you will be required to get a liquor license. Especially if you are in a quota-based state where only a limited number of licenses are provided, it can be very expensive. Head to your state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board to start your application. Adding alcohol to your menu stresses further the importance of proper ice storage. In which case, you might want to invest in a top-of-the-line Manitowoc ice machine.

Sign permit


Yes, you have to check with your city government if your restaurant storefront or sign regarding the size, location, and even the type of lighting and the sign itself. You might be required to hire a professional for the designing and installation of the sign and then have those plans approved by your city government. The permit itself should cost around $20 to $50.

Other important licenses:

Seller’s Permit

  • Indicates your restaurant collects sales tax from customers
  • Issued by the local government
  • Application via online, phone or in-person
  • The security deposit may be required

Resale Permit

  • Prevents double taxation for purchases used to manufacture food to be sold in your restaurant
  • Costs can go up to $50

Music License

  • To be able to play music in your restaurant legally
  • $250 to $500

Live Entertainment License

  • For concerts, dance, and other live events that you plan to host in your restaurant 

 Pool Table

  • Operation hours and number of pool tables allowed may be limited
  • Annual fee of $10 $15

Dumpster Placement

  • Allows restaurants to place a dumpster for food waste
  • Depends on the restaurant location and size of the dumpster
  • Check with public works department for more information

Valet Parking

  • Requires detailed plan of the proposed pick-up and drop-off area, number of spaces required, letter of agreement between you and your valet operator and the restaurant, payment methods for the service

What’s next?

With your licenses and permits for your restaurant in order, you should work hard to make sure your restaurants are able to keep them. This will involve taking good care of your kitchen equipment and ensuring a safe and productive operation.