Types Of License You Should Get For A Restaurant Business In California

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Once you plan on launching a restaurant business in California, are you aware that there are licenses and permits you need to comply with? You should have a comprehensive understanding of these requirements because these are important not only for legal compliance but also for smooth operation.


Each type of California license or permit, whether a California alcohol license or occupancy permit, serves a specific purpose, and it ensures food safety to confirm the suitability of your chosen location.


You probably think that licenses would seem daunting, but it’s quite manageable once you know what’s needed.


In this blog we will provide a clearer overview about each type of license required for restaurant businesses in California, together with detailed information on how to obtain them.

What Do You Need to Fully-Operate a Restaurant Business in California? 


Here are the requirements needed to operate a restaurant business in California. 


Certificate of Occupancy


You can’t open your California restaurant doors without a secure Certificate of Occupancy. It’s a major requirement that the city planning and development departments enforce to verify that the business complies with all local building codes and ordinances. 


The certificate will signify that your restaurant business has been inspected and deemed safe for occupancy. With that, you must understand it’s not just a once-and-done deal. 


If you are also planning to make any changes to the establishment, like renovations or expansions, you must apply for a new certificate.


Once your application has been approved, there will be inspections to be conducteed at different stages of the renovation or construction process. The inspectors will also check everything from plumbing and electrical systems to fire safety measures before approving.


Remember that operating without a certificate of occupancy may lead to hefty fines or even the closure of the business by the local authorities. 


That is why restaurant businesses must acquire and maintain their up-to-date certificate of occupancy. You should keep all the regulations in mind so it will not prevent operations because of non-compliance issues.


Business License


A business license is also another key to the establishment’s front door in California. That’s why it’s necessary and legally required for operations, especially if you serve alcohol. You will need a California alcohol license to run a business. This is your permit to run a business within the specific jurisdiction. 


Remember that if your restaurant operates in many locations, each location will require its license.Failure to maintain an updated business license may lead to penalties and fines and even shut down your restaurant.


Business Name Registration


Choosing a catchy name for your restaurant is just the first course. However, it’s important that you legally register that name, for it will serve as the establishment’s formal identity in the public and business world.


Food Service and Handler’s License


When you navigate the maze of restaurant ownership, it will make you feel overwhelmed. But don’t worry; obtaining the Food Service and Handler’s Certificate is not as complicated as it sounds.


In California, it’s a certificate mandated by the law for anyone working in a food establishment that prepares, cooks, serves, or even handles food. It’s not just for chefs and cooks – but also for anyone from dishwashers to managers who will obtain one.


The certification process also involves completing the state-approved food safety course covering critical topics like proper food storage, cross-contamination prevention, correct cooking temperatures, and safe handling practices.


Remember that properly certifying all employees with an alcohol-serving license will not just keep the customer safe. Still, it could also demonstrate commitment to maintaining a high standard within the restaurant business in California.


Employee Health Permit


In California, the employee health permit is another important license you must obtain for a restaurant business.


The permit will ensure that all employees are in good health and not carrying any infectious diseases that could harm your customers. 


It’s about protecting the patrons and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment for everyone involved in the business.


To obtain an Employee Health Permit, you must apply to the local health department with a fee. The process also involves having a medical examination of the staff members or providing proof of their recent medical check-ups.


Each county might also have specific requirements, so you must check with your local health department for the right information. The permit also needs renewal periodically, and it’s usually every year. That’s why you must stay on top of it and avoid legal issues.


Building Health Permit


Building permits might be just a little piece of paper. But it’s also a big deal because it ensures the business meets health and safety standards.


In California, before you can open restaurant doors to the public, you will be required by the law to show proof that the building is safe and sanitary.


To obtain this permit in California, you’ll need to have a complete site plan of the restaurant, which includes kitchen layout and restroom facilities, among other details. 


The building must always meet the specific criteria related to food storage areas, temperature controls for cooking equipment, ventilation systems, and sanitation facilities outlined by the California Retail Food Code. 


Employer Identification Number


The Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit federal tax ID you need to legally conduct business in the United States, including California. 


The EIN is not optional. Because whether you’re a sole proprietor or have numerous employees, most businesses are required by the law to obtain one. 


The good thing is, applying for an EIN is just so easy and free of charge. You can just apply directly through the IRS website. You have to obtain before hiring employees, even opening a bank account in the name of your restaurant, or applying for licenses and permits that require it. 



Putting up a restaurant in California comes with licensing laws. It can be quite a challenge, but it will be important to the business’s success. 


From obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy and Business License to ensuring you’ve registered your business name and have all necessary health permits – each step is vital.


Remember, it’s not just about getting these licenses once. You must ensure they’re kept up-to-date to avoid any legal issues. You must be knowledgeable, diligent, and proactive in maintaining your restaurant’s legality to run a smooth business.