Business licence: A permit issued by The City to operate a business.
Business ID (BID): A unique identification number required by all businesses operating within Calgary.
Special function: A special event or function organized by a business that temporarily expands business activities, usually held to show customer appreciation or promote the business. Most special functions take place in parking lots.
Licence of Occupation: An approval from The City of Calgary to use public property (sidewalk or curb lane) to extend a business activity, usually associated with outdoor patios.
Before you start
A business may require other permits in addition to a business licence depending on the type of business and location. Below is information on the most common types of additional permits.
City parks and public property
Generally, vendors wanting to set-up in parks and public property outside downtown are only permitted to operate as part of a major festival or event.
If your business wishes to participate in a City-approved festival or event on public roadways, pathways or parks, contact the festival organizers directly for permission.
Vendors at City-approved special events and festivals
If you are a vendor only participatin in City-approved special events and festivals, you may not require a business licence. For operating requirements, visit Calgary parks or email email@example.com for vendor pre-qualification details.
Booking park event space for your business
Businesses can book park space for special events or to allow for consistent access for organized activities (such as fitness classes) by obtaining a green space permit. These permits do not provide permission to sell services or allow vending within the park, nor do they provide exclusive use of the park space.
For more details or to book a park space, picnic site, meeting room or event facility contact 311 or book through Parks
Buskers provide street performances for public entertainment.
Busking in Calgary has information about busking in Calgary, including how to apply.
The City has rules and requirements for signage based on the type of sign and its location. Below is an overview of sign types in Calgary.
Signs on private property
Signs are not allowed to advertise the address or be plaecd in front of a Home-based businesses.
Signs on private property are defined and separated by class in the Land Use Bylaw.
Below is a brief description of each class of sign. Building and Development lists and forms has application forms and a Planning applications fee schedule. Signs are either permitted or discretionary dependant on the land use district and Land Use Bylaw rules. For details related to a sign, contact the Planning Services Centre.
Class A – general signs
This class includes: address signs, art signs, banner signs, construction signs, directional signs, election signs, flag signs, gas bar signs, pedestrian signs, real estate signs, show home signs, special event signs, temporary signs, window signs and any sign in a building not meant to be seen from outside.
These signs are typically allowed in all land use districts and generally only require a permit if they do not meet the rules.
Class B – fascia signs
Fascia signs attach to the outside of a building, parallel to the wall they are mounted on. They are usually above the main floor, but below the roof line. New fascia signs require a development permit. If you are replacing the sign copy without changing the sign box or location, no permit is required. Land Use Bylaw rules limit the size, location and lighting of these signs.
Class C – free standing signs
Free standing signs are usually placed near the road at the edge of a property to promote a business. Free standing signs do not rotate but may be lit up or have interior lighting behind removable panels. New signs require a development permit. The panels that hold the sign copy, or where the business information is, can be replaced without a new permit.
Class D – canopy, awning and projecting signs
These signs stick out from the face of a building. New signs require a development permit and have specific rules for size, height and projection from the building. Projecting signs are limited to the number allowed on a particular wall.
Class E – message signs, inflatables and miscellaneous signs
This class includes: digital message signs, flashing or animated signs, inflatable signs, message signs, painted wall signs, roof signs, rotating signs, temporary sign markers and any sign that does not fit into other classes of signs.
These signs require development permits to install or alter and have specific Land Use Bylaw rules.
Class F – third party advertising signs
Third party advertising signs, or billboards, are used to advertise products or promote businesses that are not located on the property. To get a development permit, third party advertising signs must meet Land Use Bylaw rules and are limited to where they can be located - see section 111 of the Land Use Bylaw for more information.
These signs are a discretionary use and are only approved for a certain length of time, after which they need to be renewed.
Class G – digital third party advertising signs
Digital third party advertising signs promote products and businesses not located on the property using a digital display. These signs are not allowed to show video of any type. Digital third party advertising signs must meet Land Use Bylaw rules and are limited to where they can be located - see section 111 of the Land Use Bylaw for more information.
These signs are discretionary use and are approved for a certain length of time, after which they need to be renewed.
Signs on public property
Signs on public property, such as temporary signs, elections signs, garage sale signs, signs in parks and signs advertising a service must follow the Temporary Signs Bylaw rules.
A tempoary sign cannot be:
- Closer than 30 metres to an intersection, City bus shelter, transit bench, bus zone, LRT station or LRT platform.
- Within 10 metres of a crosswalk that is not at an intersection.
- Closer than 2 metres from a curb or edge of road.
- On any traffic island or centre median.
- Obstructing a traffic control device.
- On any Prohibited or restricted roadway.
- Hazardous to traffic or pedestrians.
A temporary sign cannot be:
- Attached to a standard street light pole, traffic signal pole or a City sign pole (except for posters).
- Attached on or within a plus 15 bridge, pedestrian walkway or overpass
- Attached to a sound wall.
- Permanently affixed.
- Supported by string, rope, metal stakes or wire.
- Damaging to municipal property.
In addition, a temporary sign is not legal if it:
- Is placed on a decorative lamp post.
- Could be a hazard to either the person erecting the sign or a member of the public.
- Has a sign face larger than 0.6 square metres (3 m2 for election signage).
- Is lit, electrified or inflatable.
- Becomes unsightly.
- Is placed on a fire hydrant.
- Is displayed for more than 14 days before or more than 24 hours following the date of the advertised event, whichever is less.
Election signs have certain exemptions from the Temporary Signs Bylaw.
Banner signs over roadways
Banners attached to a pedestrian overpass are applied through the Roads’ epermit system. A temporary banner over a roadway will be considered if it:
- Is promoting a non-profit, charitable cause or public event.
- Is requested a minimum of four months prior to the desired install date.
- The applicant provides:
- An insurance certificate.
- A Government of Alberta corporation non-profit search document.
- A scaled detail drawing of the banner that follows the design requirements.
For more information, visit banner over roadway permit.
Garage sale signs
Garage sales can have up to three signs posted. These signs can only be up on the day before the day of the sale. Garage sale signs must include the owners name, address, phone number and date the sign was posted.
Signs in parks
Signs for businesses or services are not allowed in parks.
Special functions are a great way for your business to show appreciation for your customers or to showcase a sale. They may also allow you to increase the size of your business during a festival or for Stampede. In Calgary, special functions must meet Land use Bylaw rules, applicable safety regulations and licensing requirements.
There are two types of special functions: Class 1 and Class 2. The class depends on how the function operates.
Special Function Class 1 accommodates educational, social, recreational, sporting and worship events such as weddings, circuses, birthdays, trade shows and ceremonies. Or, it allows the expansion of the uses already occurring on the property. These functions are anticipated to have a minimal effect on the surrounding neighbourhood.
A Special Function Class 2 accommodates the temporary expansion of a commercial licenced establishment, including a conference and event facility, drinking establishment, restaurant and night club. These events may have higher impacts and a Development Permit is generally required.
When is a permit required?
If you are planning to hold a special function or event, you may need permits. Development permits are required when certain Land Use Bylaw rules or business activities dictate that an event needs to be reviewed. Building permits are required when tents, air supported structures, stages and other festival-type structures are erected, regardless of the timing of the event.
Your event needs a development permit if:
Your event falls under Special Function Class 1 and:
- Your event is up for over 15 consecutive days.
- Events on site total more than 30 days.
- You have tents over one storey.
- Your event is located in a corner visibility triangle.
Your event falls under Special Function Class 2 and:
- Your event is up longer than three consecutive days.
- Events on site total more than 30 days.
- The total tent area is over 125 m2 and the event is within 45 metres of a residential district.
- The total tent area is over 300 m2 and the event is in a downtown or East Village district.
- The total tent area is over 75 m2 and the event is in a C-N1, C-N2, I-E, I-R, CC-ER, or CC-EPR district.
- Your tents have openings facing a residential district. Emergency exits, loading bay doors or non-operating windows facing a residential district are allowed. If your tent and the residential district are separated by a street, openings are allowed.
- You have tents over one storey.
- Your event is located in a corner visibility triangle.
Your event needs a building permit if:
- Your event is in a residential district and the tents are on a commercial site.
- The tents area is over 60 m2.
- There is a stage platform higher than 1.2 metres.
- There is an overhead structure being used in conjunction with a tent or stage.
- There is temporary seating, such as bleachers.
- An individual tent is over 300 m2.
- Your event has over 1000 participants.
- A tent contains cooking equipment.
Depending on your event, your permit requirements will vary. Please contact the Planning Services Centre to discuss your event.
If you need permits for your event, plan ahead to allow time for permit processing, approval and release.
Stampede events and special functions are treated the same as regular special events. Due to the number of events during Stampede, permit processing times may be longer so plan accordingly.
Interdepartmental events team
Events can involve many City departments. If you are shutting down a road for a marathon, for example, you would need a street use permit from Roads and the Calgary Police Service to divert traffic. When multiple City departments are involved and an event is taking place on City land, contact the Interdepartmental Events Team to ensure you get all of the permits required. The Festival and Event Planning Guide can help you plan your event.
The criteria for Interdepartmental Events Team involvement is:
- The event must be on a City-owned park or road.
- The event must involve at least two City departments.
Exceptions to these criteria can be made for large or complex events that need help from various City departments.
To contact the Interdepartmental Events Team, call 403-476-4304 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Licence of Occupation
When a business wants to use a public sidewalk or curb lane, approval is required. A Licence of Occupation is a legal document that outlines the relationship between The City and the business leasing or occupying the public space.
To obtain a Licence of Occupation, contact 311. Any business licence waiting for the Licence of Occupation will remain pending until the Licence of Occupation is approved.
The fee is listed under other applications in the Planning Applications Fee Schedule.
Street use permit
A street use permit is required to use any City road right-of-way and is issued to reserve street space for construction, moving or filming. The street use permit allows the use of a street, sidewalk, alley, walkway, back lane, boulevard or traffic control set-up.
To apply for a street use permit, contact 311 or use the Roads’ online permit system (for registered users).