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Understanding Business Licence Requirements

Before you start

This page is intended to help businesses to understand the importance of deciding where and how you plan to operate your business and how that affects the different City permits and approvals that are required before you can open. Although a business licence is not required for all business types, registering your business with The City and obtaining approval for the location you plan to operate is always required.

For more information on business basics, planning resources, why businesses are required to be licensed, and business tax information, visit Business 101​​.

Where am I operating?

Choosing where you plan to operate your business is a key step in starting a business. Businesses can operate in the following ways:

Commercial-based location

Your business will be run from a commercial or industrial location in Calgary.

Before signing a lease or making a long-commitment to a commercial location, it’s important to understand that The City must review your proposed location to determine what permits are required to operate legally and safely. It may require a development permit for City approval, and a building permit to review the safety of the space.

For more information regarding potential permit requirements for commercial locations, visit commercial-based businesses or contact the Planning Service Centre.

Home-based location

Your business will be run from your home in Calgary.

Whether you plan to operate a consulting office or a hair studio from your home, there are different rules that should be considered prior to applying for your business with The City. Depending on how you're operating, your business will either require a permit with instant approval, or a development permit with a more in-depth review, which allows for comment from the surrounding community.

For more information on the different rules, visit home-based businesses.

Based out of town

If your business will be based outside Calgary, but you will be conducting business within the city, your business is considered a non-resident.

Only certain business can operate in this matter. Non-resident businesses are required to pay an additional non-resident surcharge on top of standard licensing fees.

If you own property within Calgary, the non-resident surcharge may be waived. Contact the Planning Services Centre for more information.

Mobile

Your business will operate on a mobile basis.

It’s important to note that while certain businesses can operate on a mobile basis, they are still required to have a base location, whether it be home-based or commercial-based.

Special event

Your business will operate at a City-approved special event.

Food or retail vendors that participate in City-approved special events/festivals on parks or public land do not require a City business licence, as these vendors already pay fees to participate in the event and are required to adhere to all standard health and safety regulations.

This rule only applies for the duration of the event. If a vendor wishes to continue to operate after the event has concluded, or outside of event hours, full business licence fees apply.

For more information about these events, visit planning festivals and events.

For information on obtaining permits for special functions, visit additional permits for business.

What type of business will I be doing?

Knowing how you plan to operate your business will help determine if your business will require a licence, if you will require a development permit, a building permit, and other necessary approvals and inspections. The business guide will help you determine if your business activity will require a licence and the specific approvals to that licence type. The commercial and home-based business pages will help determine the permit types you will require, based on both your business activities and where you will be operating.

What is required if I intend to make changes to my space?

If you are proposing to do construction to your space prior to operating, a building permit and other related trade permits will likely be required. 

Please note: if a development permit is required, that must be applied for and approved prior to application acceptance of a building permit.

For information on building permit requirements, visit Alberta Building Code for commercial building permits​.

Will I be required to make changes to my space to meet any safety requirements?

Depending on how you are operating and your location, a building permit may be required for a new business or a business changing ownership, even if there is no construction planned. Upgrades to the space may be necessary to bring the space into compliance with the Alberta Building Code and all applicable health and safety standards.

For more information on when a building permit is typically required, visit commercial-based businesses or contact the Planning Services Centre.

Business guide

Use the search below to help you determine if your proposed business activities will require a business licence. It indicates the type of approvals you must complete prior to operating, the fees that may be associated to your licence types and approvals, specific rules that may apply to your business type, how long your licence is valid and other key licensing information.​​


Type a search in the search input to find business categories and business types

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Contact the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311.

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