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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. Hover over a licence type for a definition. 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. Visit home based business or commercial based businesses for more information, or contact our Planning Services Centre to investigate land use approval for your business.

Calgary Police Services approval

This licence type requires recommendation by the Police Information Check Unit. You are required to provide your full name, address, birth date and proof of identification (government-issued photo identification and one other form of identification). You must show ID at the Planning Services Centre. This approval generally takes about two weeks to complete.

When a business licence requiring a police check is applied for, this approval is automatically initiated and is completed by the Calgary Police Service internally. A police check from the past or from another police agency cannot be used instead of the police check required when applying for a business licence.

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.

Building Regulations, HVAC Inspection

Based on the business activity, you may require a ventilation inspection to ensure that it meets code requirements. This may require you to install a ventilation system. Please be aware that your business must not be operating until all approvals are in place, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

To book your HVAC inspection, call 403-268-2738, select option 2 and quote your business name or Business Identification (BID) number.

Provincial licensing approval

Certain business activities require provincial licensing. Contact Service Alberta at 1-780-427-4088 (or toll free in Alberta only at 1-877-427-4088) for details on obtaining provincial licensing, if you are a prepaid contractor or a direct Seller.

A prepaid contracting business:

  • Solicits, negotiates or concludes prepaid contracts in person at any place other than the sellers’ place of business, and
  • Accepts money before all the work is done and/or the services are provided

A direct seller:

  • Solicits, negotiates, or concludes sales contracts in person, at any place other than the seller’s place of business.

You can present your provincial licence in person at the Planning Services Centre, fax it to the Business Licence Division at 403-537-3034 or email it to licencedivisionteam@calgary.ca.

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.

Apply for your business

Visit How to apply to determine the ways in which you can make an application for your business.

Receive your business licence

Upon completion of all outstanding approvals, the business licence will be issued. It will be sent in the mail to the applicant or, if requested, can be held at our permit pick-up counter. For commercial businesses, the physical copy of your business licence should be posted in plain sight of the public.

If you are intending to make any changes to your business after you’ve received your licence, please visit changes to 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.

Additional in​formation

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.

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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