A business licence is essentially a permit that allows a business to operate on a given premise in a particular municipality. The licence serves as proof to customers that the business is a legitimate establishment that complies with local laws and regulations and is permitted to operate within the municipality. Since business licences are location-specific, each municipality provides different licensing procedures. Depending on where the business is operating, the business owner will need to obtain a business licence from that particular municipality.
Additionally, for certain type of businesses, the business owner is required to obtain a licence from Service Alberta (and more often than not, municipal licensing or approvals are also required). These businesses include cemeteries, cooperatives, and employment agencies, etc. A complete list of the businesses that must be registered with Service Alberta can be found here.
Generally, business owners need only concern themselves with the local licensing process.
In most municipalities, businesses are licensed under a category, which allows the municipality to apply appropriate regulations to those specific businesses. Businesses deemed to have potentially negative impacts on the community (such as increased car traffic or noise levels) may need to comply with other regulations in addition to the local business licence.
Depending on how the municipal bylaw is written, the categories of businesses may differ. Typical categories include:
- Adult-Oriented Services
- Agriculture and Breeding
- Entertainment Venue
- Home-Based Business
- Personal Services
- Professional Services
- Retail, Sales, and Rentals
- Trade and Industrial
If a business does not fit into any of the above mentioned categories, there may be a “general business licence” that is available for application. However, it is strongly recommended that prior to applying for any type of business licence, you should contact the local Planning Service Centre or the local City Hall to ensure you are obtaining the correct business licence.
Case Example – Getting a Business Licence in Edmonton
Obtaining a business licence in the City of Edmonton requires two simultaneous steps. Before obtaining a business licence, a business owner will first need to apply for a development permit. A development planner will review your application to determine whether the business is allowed under the proposed location’s zoning.
If the business is operating out of a commercial or industrial location, a Business Licence Application needs to be submitted at the same time as the development permit application. If the business is operating out of a home, the Home-Based Business Licence can be submitted after the development permit is approved. For businesses that intend to operate within Edmonton but will not have a permanent base of operations in either a home or a commercial location, a Non-Resident Business Application must be submitted.
Once the required applications and documents have been submitted, a processing fee must be paid. The fee amount will depend on the business category. For certain categories of businesses, the applications may need to be sent to the Edmonton Police Service, Alberta Health Services, Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, or Edmonton Fire Rescue for a recommendation before a licence is approved and issued.
Typically, business licence applications are processed within 1-3 weeks, however, depending on the recommendations required, the process may take longer than 3 weeks.
Once a business licence has been issued, business owners should note the expiry date. Business licences must be renewed annually. If the licence is left to expire, the business owner will need to obtain a new business licence by going through the entire process again, not to mention paying the full licensing fee as opposed to renewal fees!
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