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Restaurants - Business Guide

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Businesses that prepare, serve and sell food from a fixed location will require a municipal licence.

This page does not contain information about mobile food services like:

Examples of restaurant businesses

Examples of businesses that need a municipal business license:

  • Pubs
  • Bars and lounges
  • Breweries
  • Taverns
  • Lounges
  • Nightclubs
  • Micro-breweries
  • Take-out and fast food
  • Bakeries
  • Brewpubs
  • Coffee shops
  • Food court vendors
  • Ice cream parlours
  • Shisha and hookah bars
  • Delicatessens
  • Butcher shop
  • Grocery stores and supermarkets
  • Food manufacturers

Rules and regulations


If your business is planning construction, or upgrades are required to meet the Alberta Building Code, see our page on Alberta Building Code Requirements for Restaurants.

Temporary outdoor patios for COVID-19 reopening​

​Please see COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Applying for an outdoor patio​.

Outdoor patios

Outdoor patios must be approved by The City.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) recommendation: Health inspections are only required when food is being prepared on an outdoor patio. Contact AHS at 403-943-2296 for more information. After inspection, forward AHS reports to licencedivisionteam@calgary.ca or drop them off in person at the Planning Services Centre.

Approvals: There may be multiple outdoor patios associated with a single business; however, each patio requires its own approval. Land use requirements vary, depending on the property ownership where an outdoor patio is located:

  • Private property: a development permit may be required
  • City of Calgary-owned property: licence of occupation is required
  • Stephen Avenue Mall or Barclay Mall: administered by the Downtown Association

Wastewater management

Under the Wastewater Bylaw, food service providers must install grease traps to prevent fats, oils, and grease (FOG) from passing into the wastewater system. Traps must be connected to fixtures where food is cooked, processed, prepared or where FOG is released. This includes the process of rinsing and washing equipment. The grease trap must be serviced before the combined volume of FOG and solids exceeds 25% of the liquid volume of the grease interceptor, and at least once every 4 weeks. Proper servicing consists of removing the entire content and thoroughly cleaning the grease interceptor and inspecting its components. Record keeping for both maintenance and cleaning activities is mandatory. Please note this requirement will not delay the business licence review process. For more information, visit calgary.ca/FOG​ and review the Drainage Bylaw​.

Entertainment establishments

Bowling alleys, billiard halls and roller skating rinks require an entertainment establishment licence. There may be instances when this licence type is required for restaurants and bars if the entertainment provided is considered central to the business’ activities.

An entertainment establishment licence is required for:

  • Businesses that routinely advertise live entertainment, such as music or comedy.
  • Businesses adding a separate games room (e.g. VLTs or pool tables).
  • Catering businesses that promote and organize public events and sell tickets.

In addition to an entertainment establishment licence, land use, health and fire approvals are required. Contact the Planning Services Centre for more information.

Exterior upgrades and rooftop units

Restaurants often require rooftop units or mechanical equipment to handle the requirements of a commercial kitchen. If new mechanical equipment on the roof of a building is being proposed as part of a commercial building permit, a plan showing the height and material of the screen, or a letter stating the equipment will not be visible from the street is required. If new mechanical equipment attached to the building (not on the roof) is being proposed, a development permit for exterior renovations may be required.

For more information, see Land Use Bylaw Section 696 for commercial districts and Section 902 for industrial districts.

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. 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

Licence Type Land use Police Fire Health AMVIC Liability insurance Indemnification Agreement
Licence Type: Food Service - Premises Land use: Required Police: Not required Fire: Required Health: ​Required AMVIC: Not required Liability insurance: Not required Indemnification Agreement: Not required
Licence Type: Outdoor Patio Land use: Required Police: Not required Fire: Not required Health: Not required AMVIC: ​Not required Liability insurance: Not required Indemnification Agreement: Not required
Licence Type: Alcohol Beverage Sales Land use: Required Police: Not required Fire: Required Health: Required AMVIC: Not required Liability insurance: Not required Indemnification Agreement: Not required
Licence Type: Alcohol Beverage Manufacturer Land use: Required Police: Not required Fire: Required Health: Required AMVIC: Not required Liability insurance: Not required Indemnification Agreement: Not required
Licence Type: Entertainment Establishment Land use: Required Police: Not required Fire: Required Health: Not required AMVIC: Not required Liability insurance: Not required Indemnification Agreement: Not required

​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.

To view the allowable uses within a land use district, refer to the Land Use Bylaw. To determine the land use district of a property, visit myProperty.

You can also refer to Commercial, industrial and mulit-residential for more information, or contact our Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 to investigate land use approval for your business.​​

Calgary Police Services approval

This licence type requires recommendation by the Calgary Police Service through the Police Information Checks unit. Approval is completed by the Calgary Police Service and is initiated on your behalf through your business licence application.  Please note that previous police checks cannot be used as a substitute for this approval process.

You are required to provide two pieces of valid, government issued identification, one of which must contain photo identification (ID).

You can show your ID:

  • In person at the Planning Services Centre:
    3rd floor
    800 Macleod Trail S.E.
    Calgary, AB
  • By fax: 403-537-3034

Please reference your Business ID (BID) in the email or fax.

Please note: for licenses requiring a statutory declaration or a City-issued ID card, proof of identification must be shown in person.

This approval generally takes about two weeks.

Acceptable forms of government issued photo identification include:

  • driver’s license
  • passport
  • Alberta photo identification card (issued through registry offices)
  • firearms license
  • Nexus card
  • permanent resident card
  • Secure Certificate of Indian Status card (federally issued)
  • aviation document booklet
  • certified refugee protection claimant document

(For youth between the ages of 12 to 15 years old who cannot provide any of the listed photo identification options, a student photo ID will be considered).

Acceptable forms of government issued identification include:

  • provincial health care card
  • birth certificate
  • marriage certificate
  • immigration documentation (includes valid document issued by Immigration and citizenship Canada)
  • citizenship card
  • citizenship certificate
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Fire Prevention Bureau approval

Most businesses that operate from commercial premises require an inspection from the Fire Prevention Bureau before the licence can be issued. However, if a business licence is for one, or any combination, of the low fire-risk licence types, it can be issued if only the Fire approval is outstanding. Low fire-risk businesses will require to get 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)

To book your inspection, you must contact 311 with your Business Identification (BID) number request a Fire Inspection for Business Licence. It can take up to five business days for an inspector to visit the space, therefore you should call one week prior to being ready for business. 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.​​​​

Alberta Health Services Approval (AHS)

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 403-943-2296 for more information and to book a date. 

Inspection results can be submitted:

  • In person at the Planning Services Centre:
    3rd floor
    800 Macleod Trail S.E.
    Calgary, AB

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.

Provincial licensing approval

Certain business activities require provincial licensing in addition to your municipal business license. These activities have been identified as licence types on the chart above (see required approvals chart).

Contact Service Alberta at 1-780-427-4088 (or toll free in Alberta only at 1-877-427-4088) and provide details of the licence types you are currently applying for with The City of Calgary. Service Alberta will direct you to the appropriate provincial contact  which will provide further direction in regard to fulfilling the provincial licensing requirements necessary for obtaining  your municipal business licence.

Provincial licenses must be submitted to The City’s licence division to obtain the municipal license.

You can present your provincial licence:

  • In person at the Planning Services Centre:
    3rd floor
    800 Macleod Trail S.E.
    Calgary, AB
  • By fax: 403-537-3034

Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC)

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The Alberta government requires a license for certain motor vehicle business activities.  You must contact the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC) at 1-877-979-8100 for details about obtaining a provincial licence.

AMVIC requires confirmation of City planning approvals before they will issue a provincial AMVIC licence. Once AMVIC issues your provincial licence, you must provide it to The City of Calgary, which will then release your municipal business licence.

Applicants can present the AMVIC license:

  • In person at the Planning Services Centre:
    3rd floor
    800 Macleod Trail S.E.
    Calgary, AB

Photo Identification Cards

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If your business type requires an ID card, you must apply in person at the Planning Services Centre:

  • Planning Services Centre:
    3rd floor
    800 Macleod Trail S.E.
    Calgary, AB

Two (2) pieces of valid, government issued identification are required, one of which must include photo identification. The Calgary Police Service outlines acceptable forms of identification. Be prepared to have your photograph taken at the Planning Services Centre, where your municipal photo identification card will be created.​

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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.

How to apply


Online

Apply now

If you need help when completing your application Live Chat with us, 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday to Friday.

In person

Apply in person at the Planning Services Centre. To skip the line, book an appointment online.​

Additional information

Obtaining your business licence

A business license will be issued when  all outstanding approvals are complete. If you wish to inquire about the status of your licence, please contact the Planning Call Centre at 403-268-5311. 

The authorized business licence will be sent to the applicant in the mail, or if requested, can be held at our permit pick-up counter. When a commercial business is operational, the physical copy of your business licence must be posted in a highly visible location where the public can easily see it.

If you intend to make any changes to your business after receiving your licence, please visit Manage 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.

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 Service Alberta, Consumer Services at 1-780-427-4088 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.


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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.


 
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