Unlike some city governments, Rochester, New York doesn't require every new business to register with the city. Businesses in certain fields, such as nightclubs and barber shops, do need to apply for various licenses and permits. If you're doing business under any name but your own, you'll have to register the name with the Monroe County clerk for Rochester, NY.

Rochester Business Permits

Rochester only requires business permits if you're in one of several specified industries:

  • Restaurants.
  • Bars.
  • Auto repair and servicing.
  • Hairdressers and barber shops.
  • Tattoo parlors, body-piercing shops and "appearance enhancement" shops.

You can apply online, at city hall or at the closest Rochester Neighborhood Service Center, submitting paperwork with the $25 fee. The application requires your name, address, business name and proof of any necessary professional licensing. City staff will fill out part of the application after establishing the zoning in your location and confirming that it's compatible with your business.

Getting Your Permit

After the city receives your permit, it will review everything. City staff will also check with the state to see if you have any outstanding tax liabilities, and they'll check your criminal records. If everything looks good, you'll get your permit in 30 days.

The permit is good for one year. The city will notify you in advance of the renewal date.

Special Business Licenses in Rochester

While businesses not included in the city's list don't have to apply for a permit, companies in more than a dozen industries do have to register for a specialty license. The fee and application paperwork vary among industries. For example:

  • An amusement center is any business that offers games or machines that require money to play. The fee is $325.

  • An auctioneer has to pay $210 and put up a $1,000 surety bond as well.

  • A business offering patrons three or more billiard tables has to pay $250 for a license.

  • Bowling centers pay $10 for one alley, $20 for two and $7 per alley for three or more.

  • An entertainment center such as a nightclub has a $100 to $500 fee depending on the number of potential occupants.

  • Junk dealers and junk yard operators have a $300 fee.

  • A pawnbroker has a $250 license fee and a $10,000 surety bond.

  • Food trucks have to pay a $1,000 fee or $330 if they operate outside the city center. They'll have to comply with any Rochester health or food-safety laws as well.

Some businesses, such as pawnbrokers and amusement centers, must first apply for a certificate showing they're in compliance with the zoning for their location.

Getting a DBA in Rochester, NY

New York state law says that if you're an individual or a partnership doing business under anything but your own names, you need a "doing business as" (DBA) certificate. If you're working as a tattoo artist under your own name, that's fine, but if you're doing business as Jenny's Artistic Tattoos, a DBA is a requirement.

You register DBAs at the county level with the Monroe County clerk for Rochester, NY. Once you register your DBA, nobody else in Monroe County can use the same business name. You can search the county records in advance to find out if someone has already claimed the name you want.

Applying for Your DBA

You can download the DBA form from the Monroe County website, but you must deliver it in hard copy. You can submit a notarized DBA form to the city in person or send a notarized copy by mail with a $33 fee or $34 for a partnership. If you want to use a different DBA in Rochester, NY later, you can file to amend your name.