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Retail and Consumer Goods - business guide

Businesses that sell a tangible product to the public are required to have a municipal business licence.

Examples of businesses that do require municipal licensing:

  • Mobile retail businesses
  • Online or phone sales
  • Clothing stores
  • Department stores
  • Hardware stores
  • Hobby stores
  • Home and garden centres
  • Greenhouses
  • Home-based retail sales
  • Liquor stores selling accessory items like glassware, bottle openers and other bar accessories
  • Shoe stores
  • Sporting goods
  • Farmer’s markets
  • Mall kiosks
  • Tobacco retailers
  • Auction that sells used goods
  • Pharmacies
  • Tailors and seamstresses
  • Shoe repair

Examples of businesses that do not require municipal licensing:

  • Health professionals
  • Registry offices
  • Rental businesses
  • Provincially-approved auctions
  • Christmas tree vendors​

If your business does not require a licence, you still require a Business ID and land use approval. Visit businesses not requiring a municipal licence​ for more information.

Rules and regulations


Rental services

Retail licences are often combined with other licences. A rental business, for example, would not require a licence under the retail dealer category; however, if the business sells accessory items for the rental equipment, such as wax kits for ski and board rentals, they would also be required to have a retail dealer – premises licences.

Retail dealer – no premises

If a business offers retail sales from a mobile business unit then a retail dealer – no premises licence is required.

A mobile business unit may operate under specific conditions:

  • From private property, written consent must be obtained from the property owner.
  • Downtown mobile vendors are licenced as a pushcart vendor.
  • Mobile vendors in parks and other public property outside of downtown are only permitted to operate as part of a major festival or event.
  • Mobile vendors are not permitted to sell from LRT stations.

If you have more than one mobile business, each unit is required to obtain a licence.

Market licence

Farmers/craft markets require the market licence type. Individual stall or table operators within a market do not need a separate licence as long as they operate during the same hours as the market. Most malls obtain a market licence to cover the pop-up style kiosks in the common areas.

Kiosks

Kiosks are spaces set up in common areas of malls that a retailer builds themselves and have approval by mall management. Kiosks located in malls that have a market licence do not require a licence unless they sell tobacco or alcohol.

Auction sales businesses

Auction sales businesses are licensed by the province under the Fair Trading Act, Public Auction Regulation. An auction sales business licensed by the province and carrying on the business of sales by auction only does not require a licence as a retail dealer – premises or second-hand dealer unless items can be purchased outside regular hours of an auction sale.

Health professionals

A business licence is not required if a health professional is on site and the majority of items sold are prescribed as treatment. If there is retail sale of products not related to the practice, then a retail dealer licence is required. This may apply to a clinic and pharmacy business, where the medical clinic does not require a licence, but the pharmacy does, so the entire business is licenced as retail dealer – premises.

Registry offices

Registry offices act as agents for the government when they are searching, accessing and selling government information (driver licences, birth certificates, corporate searches, licence plates, incorporation applications, etc.); therefore, they are not required to have a municipal business licence. However, a business licence is required to sell retail items such as maps, will kits, etc.

Guns and ammunition dealers

Selling guns and ammunition requires both a municipal licence and a federal gun dealer’s licence. Contact the RCMP at 1-800-731-4000. The chief fire arms officer of Alberta will require proof that a municipal licence has been issued before obtaining a federal gun dealer’s licence.

Tobacco retailer

Selling, offering to sell or directing the sale of any tobacco product to the public, including cigars, cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, chewing or pipe tobacco or snuff requires a tobacco retailer licence in addition to other licences required for business activities. Businesses wanting to sell raw tobacco should visit the Canada Revenue Agency. Mail order tobacco sales are not permitted unless the delivery or mailing is between manufacturers and retailers. Tobacco retailers are required to operate from a commercial premise only and are prohibited from operating from a residence or mobile business unit.

Motor vehicle dealers, motorcycles, ATVs/snowmobiles and recreational vehicles

To sell motorized recreational vehicles, motorcycles and vehicles, a motor vehicle dealer licence and appropriate Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council approvals are required. Non-motorized recreational towables (e.g. fifth wheels, trailers, truck camper tops) and ATVs/snowmobiles or other motorized off-road vehicle sales require a retail dealer licence.

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 Provincial AMVIC ID card
Retail Dealer - Premises Required Not required Required Not required Not required Not required Not required
Retail Dealer - No Premises Required Not required Not required Not required Not required Not required Not required
Market Required Not required Required Required Not required Not required Not required
Secondhand Dealer Required Required Required Not required Not required Not required Not required
Liquor Store Required Not required Required Not required Not required Not required Not required
Wholesaler Required Not required Required Not required Not required Not required Not required
Tobacco Retailer Required Not required Required Not required Not required Not required Not required
Pawnbroker Required Required Required Not required Not required Not required 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
​​​

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.

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.

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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