Permits & Leases


Common permits you may need:

  • Fire Inspection Permits: are usually granted from your local Fire Department and gives you permission to to have, store, use or handle materials and to do activities that may be potentially dangerous. A permit does not replace any license required by law. This varies by location, and an example of a fire inspection permit in San Francisco can be found here.

  • Public Safety Permits: are usually granted by the police department and they can include parking permits, food serving permits for food trucks and restaurants, or even to provide electric scooters. If your business or company provides services that might affect your customers’ health, like with food and drink or with physical activities, then you may require public safety permits from your city and state.

  • Seller’s Permits: generally, if you’re if you make three or more sales in a 12-month period, you are required to hold a seller’s permit. For both wholesale and retail business, this is your permission to do business in the state.

  • Land Use or Zoning Permit: zones are the general plans separating community spaces by usage, like residential or commercial. A school and households would be in a residential zone, whereas a strip mall would be in a commercial zone. Consider how schools are usually near parks but not near factories, that’s by design! Make sure you can operate your business in your location and that it abides by local zoning laws. If you need an exception or special use permit, you may need to apply for an exception. For example, a liquor store near a high school may not be able to sell hard alcohol or may not be able to be open after a certain time.

  • Building Inspections & Permits: is usually granted by the city government for making any changes to a building and to assess if your workplace is up-to-code. A bar needs an alcohol license and a dental office needs a specific permit for this sort of professional service. This varies by location, check out an example of a building inspection permit in San Francisco.

Contract and Lease Warning

Related to being approved to be and to work in your space, you want to be in a space that works for you! Hopefully, it’s also not a space that you’ve had to pay an arm and a leg for. There are some things you should consider before signing a lease on a property or rental unit that can protect you from taking on financial losses:

  • Check zoning to make sure you can do type your type of business at your location.

  • Call utility companies for quotes on electric, water and gas costs at that location for your type of business.

  • Know who you are renting from; is it a direct lease with landlord or a sublease with previous business owner?

  • Know your startup costs: Have contractor(s) walk through to get quote for all renovations and installations. Identify cost of things you can’t take with you when move.

  • Know your business environment: Do a market survey of customers and competitors in one-mile radius of location.

  • Get quotes for property and liability insurance, and Worker’s Compensation.

  • Negotiate free months when paying rent by identifying the costs of renovations and divide by monthly rent rate. You can also negotiate with the landlord to see if s/he is willing to pay for the renovations

  • Know terms that work for you. Terms that support business are: 1-5 years/renewable and right of first refusal.