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Retail and Consumer Goods - New Business Guide

Businesses that sell a tangible product to the public are required to have a municipal business licence.

Examples of business activities that do require municipal licensing:

  • Mobile retail businesses
  • Online or phone sales
  • Clothing stores
  • Department stores
  • Hardware stores
  • Hobby stores
  • Home and garden centres
  • Greenhouses
  • Home-based retail sales
  • Liquor stores selling accessory items like glassware, bottle openers and other bar accessories
  • Shoe stores
  • Sporting goods
  • Christmas tree vendors
  • Farmer’s markets
  • Mall kiosks
  • Tobacco retailers
  • Auction that sells used goods
  • Pharmacies
  • Tailors and seamstresses
  • Shoe repair

Examples of business activities that do not require municipal licensing:

  • Health professionals
  • Registry offices
  • Rental businesses
  • Provincially-approved auctions

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

Rental services

Retail licences are often combined with other licences. A rental business, for example, would not require a licence under the retail dealer category; however, if the business sells accessory items for the rental equipment, such as wax kits for ski and board rentals, they would also be required to have a retail dealer – premises licences.

Retail dealer – no premises

If a business offers retail sales from a mobile business unit then a retail dealer – no premises licence is required.

A mobile business unit may operate under specific conditions:

  • rom private property, written consent must be obtained from the property owner.
  • Downtown mobile vendors are licenced as a pushcart vendor.
  • Mobile vendors in parks and other public property outside of downtown are only permitted to operate as part of a major festival or event.
  • Mobile vendors are not permitted to sell from LRT stations.

If you have more than one mobile business, each unit is required to obtain a licence.

Market licence

Farmers/craft markets require the market licence type. Individual stall or table operators within a market do not need a separate licence as long as they operate during the same hours as the market. Most malls obtain a market licence to cover the pop-up style kiosks in the common areas.

Kiosks

Kiosks are spaces set up in common areas of malls that a retailer builds themselves and have approval by mall management. Kiosks located in malls that have a market licence do not require a licence unless they sell tobacco or alcohol.

Auction sales businesses

Auction sales businesses are licensed by the province under the Fair Trading Act, Public Auction Regulation. An auction sales business licensed by the province and carrying on the business of sales by auction only does not require a licence as a retail dealer – premises or second-hand dealer unless items can be purchased outside regular hours of an auction sale.

Health professionals

A business licence is not required if a health professional is on site and the majority of items sold are prescribed as treatment. If there is retail sale of products not related to the practice, then a retail dealer licence is required. This may apply to a clinic and pharmacy business, where the medical clinic does not require a licence, but the pharmacy does, so the entire business is licenced as retail dealer – premises.

Registry offices

Registry offices act as agents for the government when they are searching, accessing and selling government information (driver licences, birth certificates, corporate searches, licence plates, incorporation applications, etc.); therefore, they are not required to have a municipal business licence. However, a business licence is required to sell retail items such as maps, will kits, etc.

Guns and ammunition dealers

Selling guns and ammunition requires both a municipal licence and a federal gun dealer’s licence. Contact the RCMP at 1-800-731-4000. The chief fire arms officer of Alberta will require proof that a municipal licence has been issued before obtaining a federal gun dealer’s licence.

Tobacco retailer

Selling, offering to sell or directing the sale of any tobacco product to the public, including cigars, cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, chewing or pipe tobacco or snuff requires a tobacco retailer licence in addition to other licences required for business activities. Businesses wanting to sell raw tobacco should visit the Canada Revenue Agency. Mail order tobacco sales are not permitted unless the delivery or mailing is between manufacturers and retailers. Tobacco retailers are required to operate from a commercial premise only and are prohibited from operating from a residence or mobile business unit.

Motor vehicle dealers, motorcycles, ATVs/snowmobiles and recreational vehicles

To sell motorized recreational vehicles, motorcycles and vehicles, a motor vehicle dealer licence and appropriate Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council approvals are required. Non-motorized recreational towables (e.g. fifth wheels, trailers, truck camper tops) and ATVs/snowmobiles or other motorized off-road vehicle sales require a retail dealer licence.

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.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​