How to Obtain a Catering License in Virginia

by Devra Gartenstein; Updated September 26, 2017

Caterers in Virginia must work with their local health departments to license their operations as retail food businesses. In addition, they are required to hold all licenses required for businesses to operate in the Commonwealth of Virginia, including state and local licenses. If they have employees they must register with the state and federal government, and if they are serving alcoholic beverages they must obtain the appropriate license from the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control board.

Items you will need

  • State business license
  • Food service permit
  • Alcohol permit
Step 1

Determine whether your business is a corporation, partnership, limited liability corporation or sole proprietorship. The State Corporation Commission will provide you with the forms appropriate to the structure you choose. Contact city and county offices to determine which additional licenses your operation will require.

Step 2

Register with the federal government if you plan to have employees. The IRS will issue you an employer's identification number and send you quarterly tax forms. Deduct withholdings from each payroll check, keep accurate records and make payments and complete paperwork on time.

Step 3

Contact your local health department regarding licensing the commercial kitchen where you will operate. Make sure your layout and equipment are compliant with their regulations and that you understand the relevant health codes. You may be asked to submit a plan review before starting operations.

Step 4

In order to maintain your food service license, keep your facility clean and make sure your employees understand the local health codes. The health department will inspect your operation on a regular basis. Correct critical violations immediately, and correct noncritical violations before your next inspection.

Step 5

If you will be offering alcoholic beverages as part of your catering services, obtain a caterer's license from the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control board. Issuance of this license is contingent on your maintaining a designated sales volume and staying in good standing with the health department. Keep records to demonstrate that your food sales equal at least 45 percent of your beverage sales.

About the Author

Devra Gartenstein has owned and run a variety of food businesses for more than 20 years. She has published two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan" and "Local Bounty." Gartenstein holds Master of Arts degrees in philosophy and English literature.