Special Events - business guide
Generally, these businesses are temporary and appropriate licences are required where the event is taking place.
Examples of businesses that do require municipal licensing:
- Events where products and services are available
- Farmer’s Markets
- Trade Shows
- Carnivals or Circuses
- Amusement Parks
- Haunted Houses
- Psychic Practitioners
Examples of businesses that do not require municipal licensing:
- Individual vendors at approved trade shows or markets
- Seminars where samples, demonstrations, products or services are not provided
- City-approved community festivals or events
- Events at a community hall
- Generally, private or social events (i.e. not a business) held on private property
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
Interdepartmental events team
The Interdepartmental Events Team uses a one-stop approach for festivals and events on City land to help festival and event organizers obtain necessary approvals. It is made up of representatives from over 20 City departments and organizations to help co-ordinate large events. Smaller events, such as weddings or private celebrations, typically do not require the team’s involvement.
The Interdepartmental Events Team handles events that:
- Are on City-owned assets, such as a City park or road.
- Require permits/assistance from two or more departments.
- Are complex or expect mass public attendance.
Contact the Interdepartmental Events Team at 403-476-4311 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A carnival or circus business provides a collection of side shows, mechanical rides, trained animal acts, games of chance or other forms of entertainment. If there are amusement rides, fireworks, food booths or animal acts, a copy of an itinerary must be submitted to the Business Licence Administration team at email@example.com or by fax at 403-537-3034. No additional licence for retail or food sales is required. Alcohol sales for an event operating at a temporary location require AGLC approval.
Individual stall or table operators within a traditional farmers’ market or flea market do not need a separate retail dealer licence. A market licence is only given to facilities that operate on a regular basis, such as shopping malls and farmers markets. Kiosks located in malls fall under the market licence type and do not require a licence unless they sell tobacco or alcohol or if the mall or market does not have a market licence. If a licence is not required, applicable approvals still need to be met.
If you are a psychic practitioner operating at a market, you require a separate licence.
A person in the business of card reading, fortune telling, graphology, palm reading, phrenology, numerology or other similar activities.
All psychic practitioners at markets require their own licence. A psychic practitioner practicing his or her business at a trade show with 10 or more psychic practitioners does not require a business licence when the trade show is licensed. Trade shows with fewer than 10 psychic practitioners require individual licences for each psychic practitioner participating in the event. Non-resident licence fees apply to any psychic practitioner who is based outside of Calgary and is not covered by a trade show licence.
Psychic practitioners may require additional licences if selling books/jewelry, offering personal services or selling herbs and vitamins.
A commercial exhibition with 10 or more participants for less than a month and for the purpose of having the participant’s exhibit samples, demonstrate products or services or sell products or services to the public, then a business licence as a trade show is required. Participants in a commercial exhibition are not required to be individually licensed, except for alcohol beverage sales and tobacco retailers. A trade show facility licence is required if these events are held on a consistent basis.
A concert is any outdoor music or dance festival, musical performance, or similar musical activity where:
- 5,000 or more tickets will be printed, or an event is likely to attract 5,000 or more people at any one time.
- Music is provided by paid or amateur performers or by pre-recorded means.
- The event is held at any place within Calgary where the general public are invited or admitted for a charge.
Concert facilities require a municipal business licence.
Extended dance event
An event for people to listen and dance to electronic and synthesized music (commonly referred to as a rave).
A business licence is required if:
- The event is taking place at a venue that does not commonly hold this type of event.
- Expected attendance for the event is 299 or more.
To apply for this licence type, you must provide:
- A signed Extended Dance Event application form, submitted 45 days prior to the date of the event.
- Application fee (non-refundable)
- Security plan
- Emergency medical services plan
- Letter of consent, signed by the venue owner or authorized agent
- Transportation plan (if required)
- Sound system plan (if required)
- Two different forms of identification for a Calgary Police Service background check.
Land use approval must be obtained for the event. In most instances, the Land Use Bylaw prohibits operation of an extended dance event in a warehouse or industrial setting.
To apply for an extended dance event licence, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact our Planning Services Centre for more information.
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 chart
|Licence Type||Land use||Police||Fire||Health||Provincial||AMVIC||ID card|
|Carnival or Circus||Required||Not required||Required||Required||Not required||Not required||Not required|
|Concert Facility||Required||Required||Required||Not required||Not required||Not required||Not required|
|Extended Dance Event||Required||Required||Required||Required||Not required||Not required||Not required|
|Market||Required||Not required||Required||Required||Not required||Not required||Not required|
|Psychic Practitioner||Required||Required||Required||Not required||Not required||Not required||Not required|
|Trade Show||Required||Not required||Required||Not required||Not required||Not required||Not required|
|Alcohol Beverage Sales||Required||Not required||Required||Required||Not required||Not required||Not required|
|Food Service - Premises||Required||Not required||Required||Required||Not required||Not required||Not required|
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.
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.
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:
800 Macleod Trail S.E.
- By email: email@example.com
- 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
- 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
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.
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:
800 Macleod Trail S.E.
- By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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
If you need help when completing your application Live Chat with us, 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday to Friday.
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.
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.
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.