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Restaurants - New Business Guide

Businesses that prepare, serve and sell food from a fixed location will require a municipal licence.

Examples of business activities that do require municipal licensing:

  • Pubs
  • Bars and lounges
  • Breweries
  • Taverns
  • Lounges
  • Nightclubs
  • Micro-breweries
  • Take-out and fast food
  • Bakeries
  • Brewpubs
  • Coffee shops
  • Food court vendors
  • Ice cream parlours
  • Shisha and hookah bars
  • Delicatessens
  • Butcher shop
  • Grocery stores and supermarkets
  • Food manufacturers

This page does not contain informatio​​​n regarding mobile food services such as:

  • Food trucks
  • Catering businesses
  • Mobile food vendors
  • Ice cream trucks

If your business is planning construction, or upgrades are required to meet the Alberta Building Code, see our page on Alberta Building Code Requirements for Restaurants​.

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

Entertainment establishments

Bowling alleys, billiard halls and roller skating rinks require an entertainment establishment licence. There may be instances when this licence type is required for restaurants and bars if the entertainment provided is considered central to the business’ activities.

An entertainment establishment licence is required for:

  • Businesses that routinely advertise live entertainment, such as music or comedy.
  • Businesses adding a separate games room (e.g. VLTs or pool tables).
  • Catering businesses that promote and organize public events and sell tickets.

In addition to an entertainment establishment licence, land use, health and fire approvals are required. Contact the Planning Services Centre for more information.

Outdoor patios

Outdoor patios must be approved by The City.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) recommendation: Health inspections are only required when food is being prepared on an outdoor patio. Contact AHS at 403-943-2296 for more information. After inspection, forward AHS reports to licencedivisionteam@calgary.ca or drop them off in person at the Planning Services Centre.

Approvals: There may be multiple outdoor patios associated with a single business; however, each patio requires its own approval. Land use requirements vary, depending on the property ownership where an outdoor patio is located:

  • Private property: a development permit may be required
  • City of Calgary-owned property: licence of occupation is required
  • Stephen Avenue Mall or Barclay Mall: administered by the Downtown Association

Exterior upgrades and rooftop units

Restaurants often require rooftop units or mechanical equipment to handle the requirements of a commercial kitchen. If new mechanical equipment on the roof of a building is being proposed as part of a commercial building permit, a plan showing the height and material of the screen, or a letter stating the equipment will not be visible from the street is required. If new mechanical equipment attached to the building (not on the roof) is being proposed, a development permit for exterior renovations may be required.

For more information, see Land Use Bylaw Section 696 for commercial districts and Section 902 for industrial districts.

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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