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Special Events - New Business Guide

Generally, these businesses are temporary and appropriate licences are required where the event is taking place.

Examples of business activities that do require municipal licensing:

  • Events where products and services are available
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Trade Shows
  • Carnivals or Circuses
  • Amusement Parks
  • Fairs
  • Haunted Houses
  • Raves
  • Psychic Practitioners

Examples of business activities that do not require municipal licensing:

  • Individual vendors at approved trade shows or markets
  • Seminars where samples, demonstrations, products or services are not provided
  • City-approved community festivals or events
  • Events at a community hall
  • Generally, private or social events (i.e. not a business) held on private property

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

Interdepartmental events team

The Interdepartmental Events Team uses a one-stop approach for festivals and events on City land to help festival and event organizers obtain necessary approvals. It is made up of representatives from over 20 City departments and organizations to help co-ordinate large events. Smaller events, such as weddings or private celebrations, typically do not require the team’s involvement.

The Interdepartmental Events Team handles events that:

  • Are on City-owned assets, such as a City park or road.
  • Require permits/assistance from two or more departments.
  • Are complex or expect mass public attendance.

Contact the Interdepartmental Events Team at 403-476-4329 or eventservices@calgary.ca.

Carnival/Circus

A carnival or circus business provides a collection of side shows, mechanical rides, trained animal acts, games of chance or other forms of entertainment. If there are amusement rides, fireworks, food booths or animal acts, a copy of an itinerary must be submitted to the Business Licence Administration team at licencedivisionteam@calgary.ca or by fax at 403-537-3034. No additional licence for retail or food sales is required. Alcohol sales for an event operating at a temporary location require AGLC approval.

Market

Individual stall or table operators within a traditional farmers’ market or flea market do not need a separate retail dealer licence. A market licence is only given to facilities that operate on a regular basis, such as shopping malls and farmers markets. Kiosks located in malls fall under the market licence type and do not require a licence unless they sell tobacco or alcohol or if the mall or market does not have a market licence. If a licence is not required, applicable approvals still need to be met.

If you are a psychic practitioner operating at a market, you require a separate licence.

Psychic practitioners

A person in the business of card reading, fortune telling, graphology, palm reading, phrenology, numerology or other similar activities.

All psychic practitioners at markets require their own licence. A psychic practitioner practicing his or her business at a trade show with 10 or more psychic practitioners does not require a business licence when the trade show is licensed. Trade shows with fewer than 10 psychic practitioners require individual licences for each psychic practitioner participating in the event. Non-resident licence fees apply to any psychic practitioner who is based outside of Calgary and is not covered by a trade show licence.

Psychic practitioners may require additional licences if selling books/jewelry, offering personal services or selling herbs and vitamins.

Trade show

A commercial exhibition with 10 or more participants for less than a month and for the purpose of having the participant’s exhibit samples, demonstrate products or services or sell products or services to the public, then a  business licence as a trade show is required. Participants in a commercial exhibition are not required to be individually licensed, except for alcohol beverage sales and tobacco retailers. A trade show facility licence is required if these events are held on a consistent basis.

Concert

A concert is any outdoor music or dance festival, musical performance, or similar musical activity where:

  • 5,000 or more tickets will be printed, or an event is likely to attract 5,000 or more people at any one time.
  • Music is provided by paid or amateur performers or by pre-recorded means.
  • The event is held at any place within Calgary where the general public are invited or admitted for a charge.

Concert facilities require a municipal business licence. 

Extended dance event

An event for people to listen and dance to electronic and synthesized music (commonly referred to as a rave).

A business licence is required if:

  • The event is taking place at a venue that does not commonly hold this type of event.
  • Expected attendance for the event is 299 or more.

To apply for this licence type, you must provide:

  • A signed Extended Dance Event application form, submitted 45 days prior to the date of the event.
    • Application fee (non-refundable)
    • Security plan
    • Emergency medical services plan
    • Letter of consent, signed by the venue owner or authorized agent
    • Transportation plan (if required)
    • Sound system plan (if required) 
  • Two different forms of identification for a Calgary Police Service background check.

Land use approval must be obtained for the event. In most instances, the Land Use Bylaw prohibits operation of an extended dance event in a warehouse or industrial setting.

To apply for an extended dance event licence, email businesslicence@calgary.ca.

Contact our Planning Services Centre for more information.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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.​​​​​