How to Get a License to Open a Restaurant

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Requirements for obtaining a business license to open a restaurant depend on the city, county and state in which the restaurant will be operating. All restaurants, regardless of location, require business licenses to operate. Without the appropriate licenses, your business will face fines, penalties and even the risk of being shut down. Contact the secretary of state in your state prior to opening your restaurant to obtain a business license.

Contact the Internal Revenue Service to obtain a federal identification number for your restaurant, which is easily done online in just a few minutes.

Contact your local zoning commission in the city where your restaurant will operate to ensure that your location is zoned for business operations. Provide your business location's address to find out if you are in a correctly zoned location. Contact your local government or city offices for contact information for your city's zoning commission. It is important to complete this step prior to applying for any licenses as finding out after the fact that your dream location for a restaurant is not zoned for a restaurant involves re-applying for business licenses.

Visit your state's secretary of state website or office locations to obtain an application for a business license. The location of a business license application is different on each secretary of state’s website. Download or ask for a copy of the correct business license application for opening a restaurant and fill out all of the information required, including name, location, contact information and owner information.

File your application with the secretary of state. You will receive your business license in the mail once your application is approved. The time frame and process is different in each state.

Apply for a city business license in the city where your restaurant is located. You need to have your state business license first. Your local city government office provides city business license applications.

Contact your state's department of business or similar to schedule a restaurant inspection prior to your grand opening. This inspection covers sanitary and safety purposes, such as ensuring your kitchen meets all such guidelines and your restaurant is equipped with proper fire equipment. If you fail either inspection, your licenses will be suspended and you will be provided a list of things in need of attention. You must bring the restaurant into conformance with all state guidelines and pass another inspection prior to opening.

Display all state and local business licenses in your restaurant in plain sight of customers.


  • Each state’s business license application process is different, but the generalities are the same. Additional business licenses, including liquor licenses, must also be obtained if your restaurant is serving alcohol.

    All restaurants must carry insurance. To whom you must provide proof of insurance depends on the regulations in your location.



About the Author

Tiffany Raiford has several years of experience writing freelance. Her writing focuses primarily on articles relating to parenting, pregnancy and travel. Raiford is a graduate of Saint Petersburg College in Florida.

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  • business image by peter Hires Images from