Opening Your Restaurant Step Three: Acquiring the Necessary Permits and Licenses for Your Restaurant

As previously stated, we developed this web portal under the assumption that you are opening your restaurant at a location that was not previously a restaurant. To that point, now comes the critical step of obtaining the permits and licenses necessary to open your restaurant.

Submitting Plans to Building and Zoning Services:
Your first step in the Building and Zoning (BZS) process begins with checking the One Stop Shop's Zoning Map to make sure the address is properly zoned. In Columbus, a restaurant can be located in Commercial 1 through 4, along with Manufacturing zoning districts, but not in C2 districts. For your convenience, if the address you entered is Red, that is Commercial, Blue for Manufacturing. This information is located by clicking "Legend" at the top right of the One Stop Shop Zoning Map for more information. 

A Columbus Advantage – If you are planning to conduct significant alterations to the property, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of Columbus’s nationally recognized One Stop Shop service for opportunity to have a direct (and free!) consultation with officials from multiple city agencies – officials who will ultimately be the ones to review your plan. During this review session you will be given in-depth advice and guidance on your site plan and recommendations, if necessary, to bring your property into compliance for your restaurant. Please go to the Engineering Site Plan Review, select “learn more," and complete the instructions listed on that page. This process will assist you in receiving your Certificate of Occupancy faster, and in most cases, help you avoid unwanted expenses through the knowledge obtained from your Preliminary Review! Did we mention it is free?

Once you have determined that your property is properly zoned , you should then seek a Building Permit (PDF). You may also be required to obtain one or more of the following trade permits as determined by a BZS representative at the time of your building permit approval:

    •     Plumbing Permit (PDF)
             – to schedule call (614) 645-8355 or request your inspection online
    •     Electrical Permit (PDF)
             – to schedule call (614) 645-8265 or request your inspection online
    •     HVAC/REF Permit (PDF) 
             – to schedule call (614) 645-8138 or request your inspection online

Outdoor Seating (Patios) – If you wish to add, or otherwise modify, an outdoor seating area at your location, please indicate so on your Building Permit Application. The Zoning office may simply grant a zoning clearance for your patio. If necessary, you may be required to submit additional information, including a final site compliance plan. You will be notified of this need upon review of your Building Permit Application by BZS officials. If your patio will encroach upon the right-of-way, you will need to complete and submit a Right-of-Way Permit Application (PDF) to Public Service.

Columbus is nationally recognized for the speed and ease of obtaining building permits. In many cases your request for inspection, if received before 4 p.m., may very well occur the next business day! You can easily request an inspection online.

Additionally, the Department of Building and Zoning Services keeps an updated list of Licensed Contractors for your convenience.

Receiving Your Food License from Columbus Public Health:
Columbus Public Health's Food Safety Program is responsible for licensing and inspecting all retail food businesses in Columbus. It is therefore critical that you visit and review all information listed on their website. To begin, we strongly recommend you give a careful read of their excellent resource, "Starting a Food Business: A Helpful Guide." (PDF) In addition to providing critical contact information and a list of essential restaurant equipment, this guide contains excellent graphics showing the types of equipment you will be required to purchase and how they should, generally, be situated. Columbus Public Health (CPH) has also provided for your convenience the steps to open your restaurant, including fees and licensing schedule.

In an effort to ensure that you can provide the freshest, most well-kept food for your customers, CPH has put together an excellent web resource at their website pertaining to Food Protection for Licensed Businesses. It is highly recommended that you carefully review the particulars as to what CPH food inspectors will require of your business.

After reviewing the Starting Guide and Food Protection materials, you will be prepared to submit your Plan Review Application (PDF) to CPH. You will submit the application and required plans to:

     Columbus Public Health
     Food Protection – Plan Review
     240 Parsons Avenue
     Columbus, Ohio 43215

     If you have any questions, you may contact CPH at (614) 645-6191.

Obtaining a Liquor License:
If your restaurant will be serving alcoholic beverages, you must also obtain a liquor license from the Ohio Department of Commerce's Division of Liquor Control (ODLC), as the City of Columbus will not be the issuer of your liquor license.

The first step in obtaining your liquor permit is to submit a New Bar, Restaurant or Carryout Application. Please note that the State of Ohio limits the number of permits available within particular areas of the state. Although there is a $100 non-refundable processing fee, you are not required to pay the permit class fee once your application is ready for approval.

If no permits are available within the area you have selected, the application will be placed on a waiting list until a permit becomes available. For your sake, it may well be worth your time to contact ODLC to determine if one or more of the areas you are considering have available permits. If no permits are available (and this could take up to one year), you can seek a transfer via the OLDC. That application is available here (PDF).

If you have any questions or believe you could use legal assistance in obtaining a liquor license transfer, please refer to the Columbus Bar Association's "Find a Lawyer" resource, and select "Liquor Licenses" under Areas of Law.

Acquiring Your Vendor's License:
Additionally, for tax purposes, you are required to obtain an ST-1 Vendor’s License through the Ohio Department of Taxation. You can apply for your license at the Ohio Business Gateway.

A note from your Small Business Concierge: Please note this page is currently a work in progress. As requirements change we will update the site. Therefore, if you identify any missing, inaccurate, or otherwise unnecessary information please do not hesitate to contact me via email. I promise to promptly reply to you!

Continue to Step Four: Seeking City Incentives and Funding