Extra Permits and Licenses

Disclaimer: OLLIE is a free educational resource that provides general legal information for entrepreneurs in California. It does not provide legal advice. Please engage a licensed attorney for advice on your particular situation.

Navigating local regulations and permits

CalGOLD Website

The CalGOLD website offers an excellent search engine for looking up potential permits and licenses that you'll need in order to lawfully operate your business. After submitting your business type and the county in which you do business, the search engine will display a list of applicable permits and licenses, along with the contact information for their respective department. Note, however, that the search engine errs on the side of caution and may show permits and licenses that you won't actually need—your best bet here would be to contact each department listed to confirm whether a permit or license is necessary for your business. See the sections below for more specific overviews for particular types of businesses.

CalGOLD Examples

Not convinced about CalGOLD? Here are example results that you'd get from a search:

California Restaurant Permits and Licenses Checklist

So you want to open a restaurant in California? The process of securing the proper permits and licenses can cost upwards of $1,000 before you even open your doors! It can also take 2-3 months or even longer to get everything approved. This is why applying for these permits and licenses ahead of when you plan on opening your restaurant and staying organized is key! We have designed a permit and licensing checklist that will get you up to speed and stay organized:

  • Employer Identification Number (EIN): Restaurant owners must register with the State of California and the federal government for a Federal Employer Identification Number.
  • Seller's Permit: A seller's permit is required for all restaurants in California. Online registration for a seller's permit can be found on the California Board of Equalization website.
  • Health Operational Permit: This permit is for the sale of edible goods, and the costs and rules vary by county. You will have to apply with your local health department. Contact information for each county can be found on CalGOLD. With this permit, you are subject to periodic inspections by your city's health inspector. Additionally, note that before opening your restaurant, you will need to pass inspections with your local health department.
  • Workers' Compensation Insurance: California law requires employers to have workers' compensation insurance even if you only have one other employee. This can be purchased from any broker or agent that is authorized to write policies in California. A list of authorized insurers can be found on the California Department of Insurance website. After obtaining insurance, you must post a "notice to employees" in a conspicuous place at your restaurant which informs them of your workers' compensation coverage and where to get medical care for work injuries. Failure to post this notice is a misdemeanor with a civil penalty of up to $7,000.
  • Food Safety Certification: California law requires each food facility to have at least one employee/owner that has passed a state-approved Food Safety Certification exam. A certification is only applicable to one facility and is good for five years. A few examiners include the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, Experior Assessments aka Thompson Prometrics and the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals.
  • Food handler permit: All employees that handle food must have a permit to do so. A "food handler" is someone who works in a facility with food and involved in the preparation, storage, or serving of food. California law requires employers to maintain records documenting that each employee that handles food has a valid food handler permit. New employees have thirty days to obtain the permit.
  • Sign license: Your city may restrict the type of signage you display outside your restaurant. Before you display a sign, check with your landlord and your local county or city for restrictions on signs.
  • Alcohol License: You will need a license if you plan on serving alcohol to your patrons. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control regulates these permits.

Food Law Presentation

501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Status

Nonprofit organizations can receive tax exempt status from both federal and state tax authorities for a number of reasons. Whether an organization is eligible for tax exempt status will depend on the organization's purpose, as well as its activities. See the following slide deck for information on forming a non-profit, applying for tax-exempt status, and managing the non-profit responsibly.

Immigration Status

Whether you're an immigrant entrepreneur yourself, or hiring workers for your business, you'll want to take care to comply with the applicable immigration laws. See below for resources that can shed some light on the legal landscape when it comes to entrepreneurship and immigration:

Immigration Law and Entrepreneurs Overview Presentation

7 Myths About Entrepreneurs and Immigration Law Presentation

Non-Immigrant US Work Authorization Options for International Professionals

Summary Chart


  1. Fraternities, homeowner associations, labor unions, political organizations, schools, and hospitals can all receive tax exempt status under different provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. For example, Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code exempts charitable organizations (such as the Salvation Army and the YMCA), whereas Section 501(c)(4) exempts social welfare organizations (such as HOAs and unions).