Note: All businesses operating in Calgary are required to register their business, obtain a business identification number (BID) or Business ID, and obtain land use approval for the business location even if it does not require a licence. Certain businesses that do not need a municipal licence may still require licensing, permits or inspections from other regulatory bodies.
Step 1: Where can I operate my business?
All businesses in Calgary require land use approval. Each space in a building has its own specified, approved use that cannot be changed without an approval, permit or both. Contact our Planning Services Centre to investigate land use approval for your business.
Land use approval may be obtained through one or a combination of the following methods:
A development permit for a change of use is required if a business is moving into a space or operates in a different way than the last business that occupied that space. This is also required if a proposed business is intensifying or expanding operations from the previous approval (e.g. a child care service is taking more children or a restaurant is expanding a public area).
A building permit may be required for a new business or a business changing ownership, even if there is no construction planned. Upgrades to the space may be necessary for compliance with the Alberta Building Code and applicable health and safety standards.
Tenancy change applications are typically required for businesses that are changing ownership. If no construction is occurring and the use is not intensifying or changing, land use approval may be completed through a tenancy change. A building permit may be required if upgrades are necessary to bring the space into compliance with the Alberta Building Code.
Home occupation permit
A home occupation is a land use approval for a home-based business. Businesses operating from residential locations have special requirements and restrictions.
For information on the different land use approval types with sample drawings, please visit land use approvals for commercial businesses.
Based out of town
A non-resident business is a business that operates within Calgary, but does not have a commercial or residential location within the city limits. These businesses do not require land use approval from The City, but will still be subject to review by the Police Information Check Unit where applicable.
Note: there are certain types of businesses that cannot operate as a non-resident business and must be located within Calgary's city limits. If you are unsure if this applies to your business, contact the Planning Services Centre.
For a thorough explanation of how to apply for these land use approval types and samples of what is required to apply, please visit land use approvals for commercial businesses.
Step 2: Before you apply
Prior to applying for a business licence with The City, please have this information:
Business trade name: Your business operating name, separate from the business ownership. To register a trade name, you must visit a provincial registry office, however, it is not a requirement to apply for a municipal licence.
Business location: You are required to provide the address where the business will operate. If the business will be based from a commercial location, you must provide the total leased square footage at time of application, or, if you are a sub-tenant, name the business you will be sharing space with. If the business will be home-based, you must provide the total square footage of the home and the total square footage of the space you will be using for the business. If your business is based out of town but you are operating business activities within the city, it would require a business licence - a non-resident fee surcharge is added to the base licensing fees.
Business ownership: You must determine how your business will be owned prior to registering with The City. The three options are: sole proprietorship, partnership and corporation. Please visit Business 101 for more information on these ownership types.
Key licensing points
Business ownership changes
A business ID is not transferable from one person to another or from one person's business premises to another.
A business operating from more than one location requires a separate Business ID for each premises.
All charitable organizations must be associated with another licenced business activity. Approval must be granted by the province before applying for a municipal licence.
Businesses not eligible for a charity status:
- Alcohol beverage sales
- Tobacco retailer
All fundraising activity is governed by the Charitable Fundraising Act. Charitable organizations that are only fundraising should contact Alberta Municipal Affairs, Housing and Consumer Affairs Division at 1-780-427-8044 or 1-877-427-4088.
Applicants for this licence type should first consult with the province about eligibility and register their business prior to applying for a municipal business licence. Contact Service Alberta at 1-780-427-4088 (or toll free within Alberta at 1-877-427-4088) for more information.
Step 3: Apply for your Business ID
Business IDs are set-up in the same way as regular business licences. They can be set up online through our business registration system, in person at the third floor of the Calgary Municipal Building or by contacting our Planning Services Centre.
Please visit apply now for more information.
Step 4: Complete any outstanding approvals
For businesses not requiring a municipal licence, please ensure you complete any outstanding approvals.