Opening a business in Calgary

This page provides general information on what you need to open a business in Calgary.

Register your business


All businesses operating in Calgary are required to register their business with The City of Calgary and get location approval for their business location.

  • Business licences are required depending on your activity, to promote individual and public safety. 
  • Businesses regulated by a Provincial or Federal oversight body typically do not need a licence, for example: accountants, lawyers, doctors.

Before you apply


Where will your business be located?

  • Home-based – business is run from your home
  • Commercial – business is run out of a commercial space
  • Non-resident – you live in a different city or town, and you do business in Calgary
  • Mobile – business is on the move. You still need a base of operations for these types of businesses, whether it be your home or a commercial space.

Learn more about location approvals

Who will own the business?

  • Sole proprietor – one person owns the business
  • Partnership – agreement between two or more people or companies
  • Corporation – a legal entity that is separate from its owners, the shareholders

What kind of business do you want to run?

  • Do you have a clear idea of exactly what kind of service, product, or facility you would like to operate?

Learn more about business licence types

How to apply for a business licence online

  1. Create a myID personal account to start the application process.
    Register at MyID personal accounts
  2. Go to calgary.ca and click on “Start a New Business”
  3. Enter your myID personal login information and start your application.
  4. Submit your application.

Timelines and fees


The timelines for approval of a business licence or registration can vary significantly depending on the permits and approvals that are required for your business type and location.

Know your requirements before signing a lease. 

Additional Resources


City of Calgary Bylaws

Why do you need a business licence?

The City of Calgary has a responsibility to ensure businesses operating within Calgary are registered or licensed municipally. This is to ensure proper regulations and safety rules are being followed, that businesses are located appropriately and to ensure all businesses are treated fairly.

To regulate business activities within the City, bylaws define what businesses need to be licensed, what types of approvals they require and how they will be inspected to ensure the rules are followed. This provides customer protection and ensures that businesses are held to a fair operating standard.

Do you need to register your business name?

A business name, or trade name, is used to represent your business to the public. Trade names can be registered at any Alberta registry.

You’re not required to register a trade name for a municipal licence, but you may need it to open a bank account in your company name. Corporations and registered partnerships will automatically register a tradename when they register the corporation or partnership with the province.

While a trade name registration does not grant ownership of the name, it gives proof that the name you chose is associated with your business.​

NOTE: customers who register a new business will automatically have a myID business administrator account created as part of the application process.

Where will your business operate?


Choosing where you will operate is a key step in starting a business in Calgary.

Every business in Calgary requires confirmation of location approval before being approved to open and operate. Certain types of businesses are only allowed to operate in certain areas, so it is important to know how your business will be operating and then choose an appropriate location.

How to get your Location Approvals

Choose which type of location you plan to operate from to read more about the location approvals you might need.

Commercial based location

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

Understanding what approvals will be required will help ensure you will be able to open your business with ease and on time. Your business may require Planning Approval or Building Safety Approval, or both in order to be approved to operate from your selected location.

These approvals are based on:

  • the location of the business,
  • the proposed business activities
  • how the space was used before your business.

Planning and Building Safety approvals

What is planning approval?

Part of your location approval confirms that your business is allowed to operate from your chosen location. The Land Use Bylaw specifies a list of allowable uses for each land use district based on what the intent is for that location, which will be listed as either permitted or discretionary. If the use is not listed in a land use district, the business will not be allowed to operate from that location. 

Permitted or Discretionary? What’s the difference?

In the Land Use Bylaw, Uses are defined as either being Permitted or Discretionary in a Land Use District.

 

Permitted means that, if a use meets all the rules of the bylaw, it must be approved.  The uses listed as permitted were intended for this location and have little to no impact on the surrounding community.

 

Permitted with Relaxation means a use that is permitted but requires a relaxation of one of more bylaw rules. Evaluations are done on a case-by-case basis to determine if the relaxation is appropriate and how it impacts the surrounding community.

 

Discretionary use means that the use needs to be reviewed and is evaluated against several factors including applicable policies, appropriateness of the location, the compatibility of the use with others in the surrounding area, access, parking, servicing, and sound planning principles. Each submission is reviewed on its own merit at the time of application as discretionary uses have a higher impact on the surrounding community.

How your business operates will determine what use or uses best fit your business. Types of planning approval include Tenancy Change, Permitted Change of Use, Permitted with Relaxation Change of Use, and Discretionary Change of Use.

What is building safety approval?

Your business will also be reviewed for safe operations. Based on how the commercial building is constructed and the types of tenants it is designed for, a building will have a classification and occupancy based on the National Building Code – Alberta Edition.

Even if you are not planning any construction or changes to the space, the change in business activities may require a building permit application to review the safety of the space and bring it into compliance with the National Building Code – Alberta Edition. If required, you will need to apply for a Building Permit.

TIP

Before you lease a space, it’s important to determine if the use or uses are listed at a proposed business location, if a use isn’t listed in a land use district, it’s not allowed in that district.

 

If a use is not listed, you could apply for a Land Use Redesignation, or look for another location for your business.

Look up your land use district on the listed use matrix to determine if your proposed business activities are listed in your district.

How will you occupy the space?

Once you’ve confirmed your business activities are a listed use in a Land Use District, you need to determine how you will be occupying the space, to see which permits you might need to satisfy your Location Approval.

Contact the Planning Services Centre if you are not sure what approvals your business will require from your chosen location.

You are taking over a previously occupied space

There was a different business using this space and now your business will be taking over, OR you are a new tenant, but you will be sharing the space with an existing tenant.

You will need one or more of the following:

  • Tenancy Change: how the space is used is not changing, but the tenant is changing or taking over the existing business with no changes, for example: Retail to Retail. No construction is being done.
  • Development Permit: use of the space is changing, for example: Retail to Restaurant.
  • Building Permit: you will be doing construction, or the space needs to be reviewed for safety and be brought into compliance with the National Building Code – Alberta Edition.
  • Trade Permits: may be required if plumbing, electrical or HVAC work is required.

This is a new building, and you will be the first tenant in the space

You are the first tenant going into a unit in a new building.

You will need:

  • Building Permit: new buildings will have approval for the base building, a BP will be required for the individual tenant fit outs to complete the space
  • Trade Permits: you will need any additional trade permits for plumbing, electrical or HVAC work within your individual unit

You may need:

  • Development Permit: new building owners will get approval for the base building and new businesses often require a separate development permit for their business.

You are currently occupying the space and changing your business activities

You are an existing tenant. You have pre-existing approval for this space, but are making changes to operations

You may need one or more of the following:

  • Tenancy Change: to confirm if the proposed new business activities will match the existing approvals
  • Development Permit: if you’re changing the way the space is being used, you may need a Development Permit.
  • Building Permit: if you will be doing construction, or the changes require a building safety review to confirm compliance with the National Building Code – Alberta Edition
  • Trade Permits: may be required if plumbing, electrical or HVAC work is being done or is required to satisfy Safety Code Requirements.

Contact the Planning Services Centre if you are unsure if the changes in operations will require new approvals.

What different types of permits might be required?

Development Permit

You may need a development permit to operate from your preferred location if your proposed business activities do not match the current approved use. This is called a change of use development permit. You  may need a development permit for other reasons, including some exterior and interior changes to the space.

Sometimes, even if your business is listed as permitted, your business activities require a relaxation to the bylaw rules. This is considered permitted with relaxation change of use and takes longer to process than a permitted change of use.

Contact the Planning Services Centre if you are unsure if the changes in operations will require new approvals.

How to apply

You can apply for your Change of Use Development Permit before, at the same time as, or after your business licence (Licence) application. We recommend applying before your Licence.

Checklists

Sample drawings

Review the sample drawings​ to help prepare your application.

Fees, timelines and expiry

​Permit Type Fee schedule Permit fee ​Advertising fee ​​Total Our Process Timeline  Expiry

Permitted Change of Use

Planning applications fee schedule

$190

-

$190

-

5 business days

1-3 years to commence depending on the type of development permit and land use district

Permitted with Relaxation or Discretionary Change of Use

Planning applications fee schedule

$594

$30

$624

60 days to decision + 21 days advertisement/appeal period

*timelines are subject to change based on circulation requirements

10-12 weeks

1-3 years to commence depending on the type of development permit and land use district

*Review our Development Permit Process page for more information about the planning approval process. 

To avoid delays, make sure your application includes all the required documents, plans and information as indicated on the checklist.

Contact the Planning Services Center to determine the current approved "use" for your proposed address.

Tenancy Change

Contact the Planning Services Centre to determine the current approved ‘use’ for your proposed address.

If your business activities fall under the same ‘use’, typically a Tenancy Change application is required. Please note, during this review, we may determine a Development Permit and/or a Building Permit is required instead or in addition to the Tenancy Change application.

How to apply

If a Tenancy Change application is required, you can apply for it at the same time as a new business licence application or building permit, apply online or in person at the Planning Services Centre.

Checklist

Tenancy Change

Fees and timelines

​Permit Type Fee schedule ​​Total Timeline

Tenancy Change

Planning applications fee schedule

$0

Approximately 10 business days

Building Permit

A building permit will be required if you are making changes to your space, including adding, moving, or removing wall partitions. Even if you are not proposing any construction, you might still need a building permit to confirm that the space meets the required Safety Codes. Upgrades to the space may be necessary to bring it into compliance with the National Building Code - Alberta Edition and all applicable health and safety standards. A building permit confirms that your space is safe to operate your business from.

How to apply

You can apply before, at the same time as, or after your business licence application. You can submit Building permit details and drawings online or in person at the Planning Services Centre.

For more information about your business activity and the associated building permit code classification, visit Alberta Building Code for commercial building permits. For more information about when a building permit is typically required, visit Calgary.ca/commercial or contact the Planning Services Centre​.​​​​

Fees, Timelines and Expiry

 Permit Type Fee schedule Permit fee ​​Total Timeline Expiry (from date of issuance)

Commercial building permit

Building and trade fee schedule

Varies

​​Please use the Building permit fee calculator to estimate your fee.

Varies based on complexity 180 days until you require a progress inspection

Trade Permits

You may require a trade permit if you are doing any upgrades or new in a specific trade. This can include required upgrades to the existing HVAC system in the building, changes or upgrades to plumbing, electrical and gas systems. A trade permit confirms that the work being done complies with the appropriate safety codes.

Commercial Trade Permit applications must be done by the appropriate licensed Trade Contractor. Visit Hiring a Contractor for information on what to look for when choosing a contractor.

Home Base Location

Your business will be run from your home in Calgary. You may have a desk/telephone operation, complete your paperwork at home, or you may have customers coming to your home to be considered a home based business.

If you want to run your business from your home, you will need to decide on how your business will operate out of your home.

If you meet the rules of a home occupation class 1, this approval will be automatically granted when you apply for your business licence. It is valid until your business is no longer operating from your home.

If your business does not meet all the home occupation class 1 rules, you will need to apply for a home occupation class 2 development permit. This can be done before, at the same time, or after your business licence application. *

The table below will help you determine if you qualify for a home occupation class 1 or if you will need to make an application for a home occupation class 2. A home occupation class 2 development permit does not guarantee an approval.

  Home occupation class 1   Home occupation class 2
You live in the home associated with the business: Yes Yes
The number of business related visits to your home per week: 0 - 3 max. 4 - 15
The garage or related structure is used for the business: Note, a small storage area that is not impacting parking may be allowed for either. No     Yes
A large vehicle (over 4,536 kg gross vehicle weight) is parked/stored at or near the home: No Yes
Employee or business partner working at your home (that does not also live there): 0 1
Your business is food-related, and you are using a kitchen in your home: No Yes

*This table is for convenience only and does not include everything listed in our Land Use Bylaw. Please review the full list of rules located in the Land Use Bylaw section 207 “Home Occupation – Class 1” and section 208 “Home Occupation – Class 2.”

Fees, Timelines & Expiry

Location approval Fee schedule Permit fee ​Advertising fee ​​Total Timeline Expiry
​Home occupation class 1

Planning applications fee schedule

​- - $0 5 business days No expiry
​Home occupation class 2

Planning applications fee schedule

​$449 ​$32 $481 Approximately 10-12 weeks Varies, refer to your permit's conditions of approval for the expiration

Building permit (if applicable)

Some home-based business activities may also require a commercial building permit for your space to comply with the Alberta building Code and all applicable health and safety standards. For example, you would need a Building Permit for a separate kitchen for your baking business.

Building permit details and drawings can be submitted online or in person at the Planning Services Centre.

For more information on specific application types please see the corresponding checklist below.

Fees, Timelines & Expiry

  Fee schedule Permit fee ​​Total Timelines Expiry (from date of issuance)
Commercial building permit

Building and trade fee schedule

Varies

Please use the Building permit fee calculator​ to estimate your fee.

Approximately 21 business days* 180 days until you require a progress inspection

*Please see our Timelines Page for up-to-date timeline information

For more information about when a building permit is typically required, visit Calgary.ca/commercial or contact the Planning Services Centre​.​​​​

Based out of town

Your business is based outside of the City of Calgary. Location approval is not required from the City of Calgary, but it is recommended that you check with the municipality or county in which you will be basing your operations for their requirements.

If your business will be based outside of the City of Calgary limits, but you will be conducting business within the City of Calgary, your business is considered ‘non-resident’. Non-resident businesses are required to pay an additional non-resident surcharge on top of standard licensing fees.

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

What are other things to consider?


Federal taxes, provincial taxes and GST

Whether your business is a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation, you need to pay taxes on your profits. A bookkeeper or accountant will be the best source of information on the tax process. Find out more information on provincial taxes.

For federal tax information, visit the Canada Revenue Agency.

GST for businesses

The Canada Revenue Agency determines whether you need to collect GST. If you are required to collect GST, you need to register an account with the Canada Revenue Agency to receive your GST number.

Business improvement area (BIA) tax

Business improvement area (BIA) tax is billed annually to any business that occupies commercial space within an established business improvement area (BIA) in Calgary. It does not reflect a specific type of business or the profit of a business.

For more information on the administration or collection of business improvement area (BIA) and property taxes, visit Business Improvement Area (BIA) Tax or contact 311.


Planning Services Centre

We’re currently experiencing higher than seasonal application volumes, we apologize for delays. To check the status of your permit, go to vista.calgary.ca and enter in your Job Access Code (JAC) number

Hours:
Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 4:15p.m. (MT)

Live chat:
calgary.ca/livechat

Call:
403-268-5311

In person:
Whitehorn Multi-Services Centre
3705 35 Street N.E.