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Mobile Food Vendors - New Business Guide

A municipal business licence is required for businesses that offer mobile food services.

Examples of business activities which do require municipal licensing:

  • Bicycle food vendors
  • Catering trucks
  • Food trailers
  • Food trucks
  • Pushcarts
  • Hot dog carts
  • Ice cream trucks
  • Grocery delivery
  • Fresh produce vendors

If your business does not require a licence, you still require a Business ID and land use approval. Visit businesses not requiring a municipal licence for more information.

 

Consider your required approvals

Once you apply for your business licence, outstanding approvals must be completed before the business licence is issued.

A business licence will often have multiple licence types associated with it. Below is a chart of all the related licence types that fall under this business activity. If your business requires multiple licence types, approval processes are only generated once per licence. For example, only one fire inspection is required even if multiple licence types require that inspection.

Required approvals chart

 

Land use approval

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.

To view the allowable uses within a land use district, refer to the Land Use Bylaw. To determine the land use district of a property, visit myProperty.

You can also refer to Commercial-based businesses for more information, or contact our Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 to investigate land use approval for your business.

Calgary Police Services approval

This licence type requires recommendation by the Calgary Police Service through the Police Information Checks unit. Approval is completed by the Calgary Police Service and is initiated on your behalf through your business licence application.  Please note that previous police checks cannot be used as a substitute for this approval process.

You are required to provide two pieces of valid, government issued identification, one of which must contain photo identification (ID).

You can show your ID:

  • In person at the Planning Services Centre:
    3rd floor
    800 Macleod Trail S.E.
    Calgary, AB
  • By fax: 403-537-3034

Please reference your Business ID (BID) in the email or fax.

Please note: for licenses requiring a statutory declaration or a City-issued ID card, proof of identification must be shown in person.

This approval generally takes about two weeks.

Acceptable forms of government issued photo identification include:

  • driver’s license
  • passport
  • Alberta photo identification card (issued through registry offices)
  • firearms license
  • Nexus card
  • permanent resident card
  • Secure Certificate of Indian Status card (federally issued)
  • aviation document booklet
  • certified refugee protection claimant document

(For youth between the ages of 12 to 15 years old who cannot provide any of the listed photo identification options, a student photo ID will be considered).

Acceptable forms of government issued identification include:

  • provincial health care card
  • birth certificate
  • marriage certificate
  • immigration documentation (includes valid document issued by Immigration and citizenship Canada)
  • citizenship card
  • citizenship certificate
 

Fire Prevention Bureau approval

Businesses that operate from commercial premises require an inspection from the Fire Prevention Bureau before the licence can be issued. You will need your Business Identification (BID) number when you call to book the inspection. You must contact the Fire Prevention Bureau five business days prior to your ready-to-open date to arrange for the inspection. The Fire Prevention Bureau will notify the Licence Division with the results of the inspection.

This inspection must be performed by the Fire Prevention Bureau inspectors. This approval cannot be completed with an inspection done by the firefighting division, such as the occupancy inspection completed on your building permit.

Contact 311 to book your inspection. See the Fire Department Business Licence Checklist to see what is required for your inspection.

Provincial licensing approval

Certain business activities require provincial licensing in addition to your municipal business license. These activities have been identified as licence types on the chart above (see required approvals chart).

Contact Service Alberta at 1-780-427-4088 (or toll free in Alberta only at 1-877-427-4088) and provide details of the licence types you are currently applying for with The City of Calgary. Service Alberta will direct you to the appropriate provincial contact  which will provide further direction in regard to fulfilling the provincial licensing requirements necessary for obtaining  your municipal business licence.

Provincial licenses must be submitted to The City’s licence division to obtain the municipal license.

You can present your provincial licence:

  • In person at the Planning Services Centre:
    3rd floor
    800 Macleod Trail S.E.
    Calgary, AB
  • By fax: 403-537-3034

Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC)

The Alberta government requires a license for certain motor vehicle business activities.  You must contact the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) at 1-877-979-8100 for details about obtaining a provincial licence.

AMVIC requires confirmation of City planning approvals before they will issue a provincial AMVIC licence. Once AMVIC issues your provincial licence, you must provide it to The City of Calgary, which will then release your municipal business licence.

Applicants can present the AMVIC license:

  • In person at the Planning Services Centre:
    3rd floor
    800 Macleod Trail S.E.
    Calgary, AB

Alberta Health Services Approval (AHS)

An Alberta Health Services (AHS) location inspection is required to ensure public safety. Any business involving the sale, preparation, manufacturing or storage of food products requires this inspection. Any business involved in personal service such as aesthetics or massage is also required to have this inspection. Contact AHS at 403-943-2296 for more information and to book a date. 

Inspection results can be submitted:

  • In person at the Planning Services Centre:
    3rd floor
    800 Macleod Trail S.E.
    Calgary, AB

If AHS advised you that your business type does not require a health inspection, please record the name of the individual you spoke with,   their telephone number, and the reason provided.  Please provide these details  to The City’s Planning Services Centre.

Photo Identification Cards

If your business type requires an ID card, you must apply in person at the Planning Services Centre:

  • Planning Services Centre:
    3rd floor
    800 Macleod Trail S.E.
    Calgary, AB

Two (2) pieces of valid, government issued identification are required, one of which must include photo identification. The Calgary Police Service outlines acceptable forms of identification. Be prepared to have your photograph taken at the Planning Services Centre, where your municipal photo identification card will be created.

 

Building Regulations, HVAC Inspection

Based on the business activity, you may require a building permit and ventilation inspection to ensure that code requirements are met. You may be required to either install a new ventilation system or upgrade the existing one. Please be aware that your business should not be operating until all approvals are in place, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

Visit Commercial-based businesses for more information regarding a required building permit.

When you apply for your license, the HVAC inspection will automatically be booked on your expected open date. If you would like to change this inspection date, call 403-268-5311 to request the change.

Fees

For business licence fees, see the Business Licence Fee Schedule. The business licence fee schedule is broken down by licence type. If your business requires multiple licence types, the highest category fee will be charged.

These fees do not include the costs related to required permits to meet land use approval, or any third-party approvals or inspections that may be required to obtain your licence.

How to Apply

Apply now

If you need help when completing your application our online chat service is available from
8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday to Friday.

For further assistance please contact our planning service centre.

Additional information

Obtaining your business licence

A business license will be issued when  all outstanding approvals are complete. If you wish to inquire about the status of your licence, please contact the Planning Call Centre at 403-268-5311. 

The authorized business licence will be sent to the applicant in the mail, or if requested, can be held at our permit pick-up counter. When a commercial business is operational, the physical copy of your business licence must be posted in a highly visible location where the public can easily see it.

If you intend to make any changes to your business after receiving your licence, please visit Manage your business for more information.

How long is my licence good for?

Business licences expire one year from the issuance date. Forty-five days before the licence expires, a notice is mailed out advising the licensee of the expiry date. Any outstanding fines must be paid prior to renewal.

Business ownership changes

A business licence or business ID is not transferable from one person to another or from one person's business premises to another.

Multiple premises

A business operating from more than one location requires a separate business licence for each premises.

Licence type combinations

To ensure the proper approvals are generated for a business, multiple licence types may be attached to a single business licence. For example, a cabinet maker would require a manufacturer licence type; if the business is also installing the cabinets, a contractor licence type is required. Both licence types will appear on the same business licence document and only one renewal will be required.

Charitable organization

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.

All applicants for this licence type should first consult with the province about eligibility for this designation and register their business, prior to applying for a municipal business licence. Contact Service Alberta at 1-780-427-4088 (or toll free in Alberta only at 1-877-427-4088) for more information.

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Rules and regulations

Caterers

A catering business can only provide alcohol with meals served in conjunction with catered events for private social functions (e.g. a wedding). A catering business can store alcohol at the business premises if it is not sold or consumption on or away from, or at the premises. In this situation, no alcohol beverage sales or liquor store licence is required.

If a catering business promotes or organizes a public event and sells tickets to the general public, it may require alcohol beverage sales, food service - premises, and entertainment establishment licence types.

Food truck versus food service – no premises

The key to determining which licence type is applicable is the location of the truck. Mobile food vendors operating from city streets are licensed as food trucks (full service food vehicles), whereas those operating on private property are licensed as food service – no premises.

There are other considerations when determining how a mobile food business is licensed. Food trucks must adhere to maximum dimensions, contain a full kitchen and prepare food to be sold directly to the public. Food service – no premises businesses do not require a self-contained kitchen and often sell pre-packaged food; these businesses are not limited to the size and vehicle requirements of food trucks. Pushcarts that operate outside of the downtown core are also licensed under the food service – no premises licence type.

Food trucks

Prior to a business licence application:

  • An Alberta Health Services consultation is required if food in is prepared in a commercial-grade kitchen within a home. Contact 403-943-2296 for more information.
  • A building regulations consultation is recommended if there is a home-based commercial kitchen. Contact a commercial safety codes officer at 403-268-5311.
  • Acquire a licence plate number.

Building regulations for food trucks

All full service food vehicles require a safety inspection to ensure compliance to all relevant provincial and federal safety codes. This is coordinated in conjunction with a business licence fire inspection by calling 311.

Special event inspection

All food trucks are required to call 311 and request a special event inspection to ensure the vehicle complies with all fire safety regulations.

Food truck locations

Food trucks are allowed to operate from a number of locations across the city but additional permits or approvals may be required.

  • Operating from a street downtown (other than Stephen Avenue Mall, Barclay Mall or Eau Claire Market) requires a street use permit​. The food truck must be at least 100 metres from a school and 25 metres from a food service establishment. Two trucks are allowed per block face.
  • Food trucks cannot operate inprohibited zones.
  • To operate a food truck in a City of Calgary park, written permission from the director of the Parks department is required. Visit booking food truck stalls for contact information, restrictions and fees.
  • On other city properties, such as in Transit or Calgary Parking Authority lots, written permission is needed by calling 311.
  • To operate from private property, written authorization from the property owner is needed.

Food service – no premises

This licence type includes food prepared and stored in a vehicle, in a commercial kitchen (including catering trucks) or in a trailer. Some examples include: food trucks that only operate at festivals or only sell pre-prepared foods, pushcarts outside of downtown and bicycle vendors operating on roadways that do not meet the definition of pushcart. Ice cream trucks and catering trucks are licensed under this category. To operate a business on private property, written consent by the property owner must be obtained. This service can only be offered downtown between 7 a.m. and 3 a.m.

There must be a licence for each mobile unit/location.

A public liability insurance policy of $2 million must be in place prior to licence issuance.

Pushcart vendor

A portable cart or wagon (which may be attached to a bicycle) used for carrying goods to sell to the public fall under this category. This includes bicycle food vendors operating on downtown city sidewalks. Pushcarts can operate on public property but are limited to specific sites downtown.

Pushcarts operating downtown other than on Stephen Avenue Mall, Barclay Mall or Eau Claire Market can be located in either north or south downtown, as shown on the Downtown Pushcart Locations map. There are four designated sites in downtown south that are assigned by a lottery held on April 1 each year.

There are no pushcart vendors operating outside of downtown. These businesses would be licensed as food service – no premises, or retail dealer – no premises when selling non-food products. A statutory declaration and indemnification agreement must be completed upon application.

All pushcarts must apply for an annual approval with the Pushcart Approval application requirements list. Land use approval is also required for the location of operations.

Pushcarts have a maximum size of 1 metres wide and 1.5 metres long. No hitch is allowed to remain on the cart when set up.

You must have a licence for each mobile unit/location.

A public liability insurance policy of $2 million must be in place prior to licence issuance.

Downtown Association

If a business is operating on Stephen Avenue Mall, Barclay Mall or Eau Claire Market, approval from the Downtown Association.is needed.

Special events

If your mobile food business is solely operating at City-approved events, then no city licence is required. Contact eventservices@calgary.ca for food vender pre-qualification and contact festival organizers directly to obtain permission to participate.

Disclaimer: This information has no legal status and cannot be used as an official interpretation of the various bylaws, codes and regulations currently in effect. The City of Calgary accepts no responsibility to persons relying solely on this information. Web pages are updated periodically.​​​​

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