Coffee Shop Permits & Licenses


We’ve graced you with posts on our Grand Opening and Holiday events, gave you sneak peaks on the space and how AWESOME it is that we’re up and running, but I it may be good to backtrack a little to finish some thoughts on build out. The summer was filled with build out craziness: prepping for it, planning it out, executing it— among other things, so you’ve seen the process of SONDER Coffee coming together. Yet there are still unanswered questions in the area of logistics, including the topic of permits and licenses.

Permits & Licenses for a Coffee Shop

What permits and licenses are needed for a coffee shop? 

Researching potential permits and licenses is SO important when you do your due diligence, and the sooner, the better. Due diligence describes the steps you take to minimize future risk, and is quite important so you’re not surprised with deal-breakers down the road.  As I mentioned in my former post on due diligence, start with contacting your city/state/county for permit regulations. I’ve listed basic permits and licenses needed below that we encountered in our research and experience. Most will be necessary to you, yet either way you should look into research of your own to prevent blind spots.

  • Business License– Depending on your business entity, you may have to register your business with the state. As an LLC, we needed an Articles of Organization to legitimize our business.
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)–  Apply with the IRS  for an EIN. This is a federal tax id number that identifies your business in it’s current legal structure (like a social security number for your business).
  • Department of Revenue Retail Sales Tax License– Apply for a sales tax license through the state (this is where you also deal with state wage withholding and unemployment insurance accounts). Look into registering with the city/county treasurer for tax purposes as well.
  • Certificate of Occupancy (Building Permit)– The meat of the build out process is acquiring a building permit from the city/county building department. This involves dealing with the city, who at the least looks for approval from the health and fire department, which involves working with your architect, engineer, and contractors. The city conducts inspections during build out, and based on the extent of work, the city can also require zoning, demolition, asbestos, etc. approval as well. Contact your city as soon as you have a location (BEFORE you sign any lease) to see if it’s even a viable option all permits considered.
  • Retail Food Establishment License – A permit from your health department is needed to serve prepared food and drinks to the public, and ongoing inspections to keep it.
  • Liability Licenses– Other liability licenses that may not be controlled by the state but required by them or your landlord are various insurances like General Business Liability, Property insurance, workers comp, etc.
  • Other– Depending on your process, other permits may apply. One other one we went to the city for was the signage permit for our building.

There are plenty of other areas to have covered, and our list may not be as extensive as yours. Variables like location, extent of work to be done, and overall business concept will decide what exactly applies. Check for business permits and licenses at the Federal, State, City and County level. It’s a crazy part of the process, but feels so good when it’s over and done right!

Sources:
Business USA: Start A Business
-Gilbert, S., Martin, W. E., & Formichelli, L. (2005). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting And Running A Coffeebar. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
-Matzen, T., & Harrison, M. (2001). Start & run a coffee bar. North Vancouver, BC: Self-Counsel Press.
-Monaghan, J., & Huffaker, J. S. (1995). Espresso!: Starting and running your own specialty coffee business. New York: Wiley.
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