Open a vaping or tobacco retailer business
Before you apply
Do you need to register your business?
We encourage all businesses operating in Calgary to register their business with The City of Calgary.
All businesses operating from a location in Calgary are required to obtain location approval for their business, even if a licence is not required. Location approval helps ensure that the space you are operating has been approved for your business and is safe for all occupants.
If your business requires a business licence, registration will occur at the same time as applying for your licence. If you wish to register your business with the City of Calgary, please apply online.
Do you need a business licence?
Yes. All businesses that sell tobacco and vaping products are required to have a licence.
Tobacco and Vaping businesses that do require a licence:
- Corner/convenience stores
- Gas stations
- Grocery stores
- Vape retailers
- Tobacco retailers
What is a vaping retailer?
Businesses that sell, offer to sell or direct the sale to the public of any vaping product including vaping equipment, liquids or other substances intended to be vaped, and items ancillary to the activity of vaping.
What is a tobacco retailer?
Businesses that sell, offer to sell or direct the sale to the public of any tobacco product including cigars, cigarettes or cigarette tobacco, chewing or pipe tobacco or snuff.
If you don’t know if your business requires a business licence, contact the Planning Services Centre for assistance.
What are your business activities?
Your business activities will determine what's required to open your business:
- if you need a business licence
- what licence types you need
- what permits you may need
Examples of different licence types you may need:
If you’re selling any vaping products, including vaping equipment, liquids or other substances intended to be vaped, and items ancillary to the activity of vaping.
You will need a Vaping Retailer licence.
If you're selling any tobacco products including cigars, cigarettes or cigarette tobacco, chewing or pipe tobacco or snuff.
You will need a Tobacco Retailer licence.
Your business sells eCigarettes that do not contain tobacco.
You will need a Vaping Retailer licence. Tobacco Retailer licence is not required.
Your business is not selling tobacco products, but is selling items such as cigarette papers, cigarette tubes, filters or pipes.
You will need a Retail Dealer – Premises licence. Tobacco Retailer licence is not required.
Your business sells only wholesale vaping or tobacco products (no public sales).
You will need a Wholesaler licence. Tobacco Retailer and Vaping Retailer licences are not required.
Your business is operating as a Shisha bar.
Businesses cannot add regular tobacco to shisha because it is prohibited in the Province of Alberta. See the Restaurants and Breweries page for more details for businesses serving food and/or alcohol.
If you’re selling any food products or products containing edible items.
You will need a Food Services - Premises licence.
These licence types will be generated as part of your application when you apply. You do not need to apply for them separately.
If your business fits into more than one licence type, you do not need to get multiple approvals. For example, you only need one Fire inspection even if it is required by all of your different licence types.
|Example||Type of use|
If you will be selling tobacco, vaping or related products
Your business will be considered Retail and Consumer Service
If your business will be selling food and household necessities
Your business will be considered a Convenience Food Store
If your business will be selling automotive fuels
Your business will be considered a Gas Bar
Note: Depending on how your business operates, your business may meet one or more Uses.
How much does a business licence cost?
When setting up a new licence, applicable fees apply. Fees are based on the type of licence you need and whether your business is home-based or commercial-based. Business licence fees are non-refundable and non-transferable. Fees are subject to change the next calendar year.
How do you pay for your licence?
You need to pay for your licence when you submit your application. If you are applying online, you can pay using apply.calgary.ca.
What permits do you need?
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.
To learn more about what permits you may need, see the location approval section.
How long will it take to process your application?
To avoid delays, ensure your application includes all the required documents, plans and information.
Do not sign your lease agreements until you have checked your location approval. We recommend applying for your location approval and building safety approvals before applying for your licence.
What is the name of your business?
A business name, or trade name, is used to represent your business to the public. You may wish to register your trade name with the province. Read more in Opening a business in Calgary: Register your Trade Name.
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
Where is your business located?
All businesses need to provide a location that is approved for their specific business activities. Review the location approval section to make sure your business activities are allowed at your chosen location.
If you’re running your business from more than one location, you need a separate business licence for each location. Each location may require a different combination of permits to satisfy your location approval requirement.
Commercial based location
Your business will be run from a commercial or industrial location in Calgary.
Planning and Building Safety approvals
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.
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.
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.
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.
- New: A TC may also be required if only the use of the space is changing and that use is listed as a permitted in the following districts: C-N1, C-N2, C-C1, C-C2, C-COR1, C-COR2, C-COR3, C-O, C-R1, C-R2, C-R3, CC-MHX, CC-X, CC-COR, CR20-C20/R20, CC-ET, CC-EIR, CC-EMU, CC-EPR, CC-ERR, CC-ER, MU-1 and MU-2, I-B, I-C or I-G districts. If there are other changes to the space, a development permit may still be required.
- Development Permit: use of the space is changing, for example: Retail to Restaurant. use of the space is changing, for example: Retail to Restaurant . However, if how you will be using the space is listed as permitted in one of the following districts: C-N1, C-N2, C-C1, C-C2, C-COR1, C-COR2, C-COR3, C-O, C-R1, C-R2, C-R3, CC-MHX, CC-X, CC-COR, CR20-C20/R20, CC-ET, CC-EIR, CC-EMU, CC-EPR, CC-ERR, CC-ER, MU-1 and MU-2, I-B, I-C or I-G districts, and only the use is changing, then only a Tenancy Change may be required.
- 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.
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 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.
What different types of permits might be required?
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.
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.
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
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
60 days to decision + 21 days advertisement/appeal period
*timelines are subject to change based on circulation requirements
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.
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. In some Land Use Districts, a Tenancy Change is required if the use is listed as permitted in the district. These land use districts include: A TC may also be required if only the use of the space is changing and that use is listed as a permitted in the following districts: C-N1, C-N2, C-C1, C-C2, C-COR1, C-COR2, C-COR3, C-O, C-R1, C-R2, C-R3, CC-MHX, CC-X, CC-COR, CR20-C20/R20, CC-ET, CC-EIR, CC-EMU, CC-EPR, CC-ERR, CC-ER, MU-1 and MU-2, I-B, I-C or I-G districts. If there are other changes to the space, a development permit may still be 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
Fees and timelines
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
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.
Prepare your application
Once you know how and where your business will operate, you’re ready to apply.
For a smooth application, make sure you know the following information:
- Business Activities
- Location of Business
- Fee payment at the time of application*
- Name of Business
- Contact information for the business and owner
- If you are applying online, a myID account
Tips for a smooth application process
Before you apply
- Put together a cost and timeline estimate.
- Confirm the requirements needed to operate from your selected location:
- Is your type of business allowed to operate from your chosen location (is the Use listed in your Land Use District)
- What type of Permits do you need as part of your Location Approval? See location approval.
- Do you need to apply for a development permit or tenancy change as part of your Location Approval?
- Does the space require any upgrades to comply with Building and Fire Codes?
- Are you doing construction yourself or hiring a contractor?
- Do you need to apply for a building permit as part of your Land Use Approval?
- Do you need approval from the property owner before making changes to the space?
- Hire the appropriate contractors for the project.
- Are your contractors licensed
- Can your contractors pull the right trade permits to work on your business?
After you apply
- Submit all required documents as soon as you have prepared the permit requirements
- If your Business needs a Development and Building Permit, submit the Development Permit first and wait for a decision prior to submitting your Building Permit
- If your Business needs a Building Permit, submit all necessary Building Permit requirements
- Follow-up on requests for further information
- Book and complete your Inspections if a Building Permit is required
- Book and complete your Health and Fire Inspections once the Building Permit is complete
Need help? A business experience representative can help you determine what approvals you will need. Contact The Planning Services Centre.
After you apply
What Approvals do you need?
After you submit your application online, you will get a confirmation email summarizing your application. It will include your Business Identification number (BID) and your next steps. If you do not get this email, check your junk email folder and then contact the Planning Services Center if you still did not receive it.
Once you apply for your business licence, you must complete your outstanding approvals before the business licence is issued.
The approvals you will need for your licence are:
|Licence Categories||Description||Location approval||Fire||Health|
Required to sell any tobacco product including cigars, cigarettes or cigarette tobacco, chewing or pipe tobacco or snuff.
Required to sell any vaping product including vaping equipment, liquids or other substances intended to be vaped, and items ancillary to the activity of vaping.
Retail Dealer - Premises
Required to sell retail goods from a fixed location
How to get your approvals
All businesses in Calgary require planning approval before they can open. We recommend that you review and apply for required permits prior to applying for your licence.
Commercial Location Approval
The City of Calgary will need to review your proposed location and determine what approvals are required to operate legally and safely.
All businesses in Calgary require location approval before they can open.
To review what types of Planning approval are required for your business, refer to the location approval section.
Home-based Location Approval
Home based businesses will always need a Home Occupation permit. Some home-based businesses may also require a commercial building permit to operate safely. Read more about what permits you may need in the location approval section.
Most businesses that operate from commercial premises require an inspection from the Fire Prevention Bureau before the licence can be issued.
If a business licence is for a low fire-risk licence type, it can be issued if only the Fire approval is outstanding. Low fire-risk businesses need to have the fire inspection within 30 days of their licence being issued.
Before you book your inspection, you must be ready for business, which means:
- Applicants must be in possession of the space/site
- The business is ready to serve customers (e.g. shelves are stocked and fixtures are in place)
|Business Licence Approval Type||Timeline|
|Fire inspection||5 business days|
To book your inspection contact 311 with your Business Identification (BID) number to request a Fire Inspection for Business Licence (call 403-268-2489 outside of Calgary) .
It can take up to 5 business days for an inspector to visit the space.
See the Fire Department Business Licence Checklist to see what is required for your 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 is in addition to any inspection done by the firefighting division, such as the occupancy inspection completed on your building permit.
An Alberta Health Services (AHS) location inspection is required to ensure public safety. Any business involving the sale, preparation, manufacturing or storage of food products requires this inspection. Any business involved in personal service such as aesthetics or massage is also required to have this inspection. Contact AHS at 1-833-476-4743 for more information and to book a date.
Inspection results can be submitted:
- In person at the Planning Services Centre:
3rd floor, Municipal building, 800 Macleod Trail S.E.
- By email: email@example.com
If AHS advised you that your business type does not require a health inspection, please record the name of the individual you spoke with, their telephone number, and the reason provided. Please provide these details to The City’s Planning Services Centre.
Please be aware of all current provincial public health restrictions for in-person dining.
|Business Licence approval type||Timeline|
|Alberta Health Services||Contact AHS at 403-943-2288 for timelines|
Businesses manufacturing or selling alcoholic beverages must also obtain a liquor licence from Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC). The AGLC application takes approximately three weeks to process. Applicants can start the AGLC application process before their municipal business licence, however the AGLC liquor licence will not be issued until the Land Use Approval has been obtained.
You can start the AGLC application process before your municipal business licence, however the AGLC liquor licence will not be issued until your Location Approval has been obtained.
You are required to provide two pieces of valid, government issued identification, one of which must contain photo identification (ID). When you apply for your licence online, you will be required to upload your ID.
Acceptable forms of government issued photo identification may include:
- driver’s license
- permanent resident card
Acceptable forms of government issued identification include:
- provincial health care card
- birth certificate
- marriage certificate
This licence type requires recommendation by the Calgary Police Service through the Police Information Checks unit. This is an internal process that is completed automatically by the Calgary Police Service and is initiated on your behalf through your business licence application.
Previous police checks cannot be used as a substitute for this approval process.
|Business Licence Approval Type||Timeline|
|Police check||Approximately 2-3 weeks|
After you have obtained all your approvals, your Business Licence can be issued to you.
Check the status of your application
After you submit your application online, you will get a confirmation email with a Job Access Code (JAC).
To track your application and check its status, enter your Job Access Code in Vista.
If you need help or have questions, contact our Planning Services Centre.
Get a copy of your licence
As part of The City’s efforts to accelerate the business license approvals process, customers with a myID business account can receive a digital copy of their business licence via email. This is available to customers applying for a new business licence or renewing an existing licence. To learn more about the benefits of a myID business account and to sign-up today, please visit myID business account.
If you prefer to receive a mailed copy of your business licence, you can select this option by requesting a duplicate copy online or by calling the Planning Services Centre. Paper duplicates are offered free of charge at this time. Please allow about two weeks to receive your licence in the mail. If you have not received it within this timeframe, please contact the Planning Services Centre.
When does your licence expire?
Business licenses expire one year from the issuance date. You’ll get a notice in the mail 45 days before your licence expires to notify you of the expiry date. To renew your licence, see licence renewals.
Renewing your business licence
Your business licence needs to be renewed every year to remain active. We will mail you an invoice 45 days prior to payment being due. How you choose to pay for your renewal will affect when we receive the fee, so please allow sufficient processing time.
To renew your licence online, sign into your myID business account and manage your business at apply.calgary.ca.
Please note the following items from your invoice; they are required for online payment:
- Payee: when setting up the payee on your online banking, choose payee CALGARY (CITY OF) - CORPORATE INVOICE. Please note that different banks may have a different variation of the spelling, e.g. Calgary (City): Corporate Invoice. If you are not sure that you selected the correct payee, confirm with the bank.
- Payee account number: some banks or institutions may refer to this as the accounts receivable number (A/R#). Use your customer number on the invoice. If you are unable to find your customer number, contact the Planning Services Centre.
Planning Services Centre
Third floor, Municipal Building
800 Macleod Tr S.E. Calgary, Alberta
Over the phone
To renew your licence over the phone, please call (403) 268-5311. Please note, we only accept credit card as a payment method over the phone.
Mail - please include Business ID
The City of Calgary
PO Box 2100 Station M (#8043)
Calgary, AB T2P 2M5
When setting up a new licence, applicable fees apply. Fees are based on the licence type and whether the business is home-based or commercial-based. Business licence fees are non-refundable and non-transferable. Fees are subject to change the next calendar year.
If a licence is not renewed, it will expire. When a licence expires, it cannot be reinstated, and full fees will be charged to apply for a new licence and you will need to obtain all new licence approvals.
Make changes to your business
Business licences are specific to the owner when the business was applied and are non-transferable from one person or entity to another.
You can make some changes to your business, including:
- Moving your Business
- Change your mailing address
- Changing your Trade Name
- Updating your Ownership (sole proprietor or partnership to corporation) * conditions apply
See manage your business for more information.
Business Improvement Area (BIA) and Assessment
A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is established by businesses in an area to jointly raise and administer funds for various projects and promotional activities within the zone throughout the year. Businesses located in a BIA will receive a BIA tax bill. This levy is collected by The City of Calgary on behalf of the BIA.