This resource is an expert from our Complete Guide to Los Angeles Restaurant Permits. Visit this page for everything you need to know about getting permits reviewed and approved quickly.
So you finally decided to take the plunge and invest your savings into a franchise restaurant concept. Excellent move. Franchise systems can help first time business owner’s make the transition from employee to owner status.
What you may not have anticipated was how long and complicated the construction permit process can take. For example, if you are signing a lease for a space did you know that if the space you are leasing was not a restaurant before, you may be forced to wait weeks or even months to receive a building permit?
The reason is that you are changing the use of the space from a retail space to a restaurant space. This requires a different set of rules that you have to follow to ensure that there is parking, seating, health permits, and even a conditional use permit if you are serving beer and wine.
All of the permits and regulations can be overwhelming for a first time franchise owner. For this reason we put together the following resource, along with our Complete Guide to Los Angeles Restaurant Permits.
LA Restaurant Permits
Quick Note: The following pertains to both franchise and non-franchise restaurants. The permitting process doesn’t distinguish between the two.
What permits you’ll need for your Los Angeles restaurant will largely depend on your location and the type of restaurant you’re planning to build.
As you go through this process, there are two main types of permits you’ll need to be aware of:
- Construction permits: These permits pertain to the actual building and zoning of your restaurant.
- Operational permits: These permits relate to the day-to-day running of the restaurant, including staff training and food handling.
While operational permits are essential to keeping your franchise up and running, nothing can stall your business quite like waiting on construction permits.
Construction permits are required to begin work on your restaurant and come before you’re allowed to open your doors to patrons.
Construction permits ensure the space is safe for you and your patrons, and that your restaurant complies with local city planning ordinances. They include the following:
- Change of Use Permits: If you are going to remodel an existing building and are not putting the same type of business back into the space, you are changing its use and need to get permit approval.
- Building Permit: A building permit is the official approval to go ahead with your restaurant’s actual construction or remodeling.
- Health Permit: A health permit is the approval to prepare, handle, and sell food to the public.
- Fire Permit: A fire permit pertains to the use of flammable materials, materials surrounding cooking fires, fire alarms, and fire sprinkler systems.
- Sign Permit: Municipalities have regulations around how and where information in the form of words, symbols, and pictures as to how advertisements can be displayed to the public.
- Dumpster Placement Permit: Dumpsters can be eyesores and may smell awful, which is why Los Angeles requires franchises to get permission on the placement and containment of a dumpster.
- Certificate of Occupancy: A certificate of occupancy permit ensures the building is compliant with the Los Angeles Municipal Code and other laws and is suitable for occupancy. This is the last step before being able to open for business.
Operational permits pertain to the running of your restaurant and what it can legally sell. You’ll need to secure and maintain these permits while in business. Restaurant operational permits include:
- Food Service License
- Food Handler Permit
- Local Business License
- Resale Permit
- Employee Health Permit
- Seller’s Permit
- Valet Parking Permit
- Conditional Use Permits
- Liquor Licenses or Alcohol Permits
Which California Liquor License is right for you? That all depends. While not all restaurants serve alcohol, it’s important to note that there are two different kinds of liquor license you can obtain, depending on the type of alcohol you plan to serve at your location:
- Type 41 – On-Sale Beer and Wine Meeting Place
- Type 47 – On-Sale Beer, Wine, and Hard Liquor Meeting Place
About Obtaining Liquor Licenses
If your franchise plans to serve alcohol, you will need to apply for either a Type 41 or a Type 47 alcohol permit. To be awarded either license, your restaurant must be a “bona fide eating place.” This means that your restaurant must:
- Include a suitable kitchen equipped to serve full meals — not just appetizers you might plan to accompany drinks.
- Demonstrate that a minimum of 51% of your gross receipts are from food sales.
Before issuing a state liquor license to you, the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) requires that you obtain any other necessary zoning permits that your local municipality may require. These zoning permits are most often called Conditional Use Permits (CUP), and although the CUP process may occur concurrently with the state process, it is different from a liquor license.
A CUP allows alcohol to be served on the property itself and may remain for use by a future business if ownership changes. Conversely, a liquor license is issued to you as the current owner of the business occupying the space.
Once you have your liquor license, you may be able to bring it with you if you choose to relocate your restaurant. However, you will still likely need to obtain a new CUP. Both local municipalities and the ABC closely monitor the number of restaurants serving alcohol to avoid:
- Overconcentration: A ratio of existing licenses to the population at the county level.
- High crime areas: “High crime” exists if the crime rate exceeds the municipality’s average by 20 percent.
If either of these cases exists at your franchise location, you may need to obtain a finding of “public convenience and necessity” (PCN), which may include an additional public hearing. By state law, if the local municipality does not grant a PCN, then the ABC cannot approve your license application.
Expediting Your Permitting
It can take between three and twelve months to obtain zoning approval. The time to get approval from the ABC can also vary but not as much. You can expedite the process, but this can double your application fee in the City of Los Angeles.
Submittal fees for a CUP in the City of Los Angeles are approximately $8,000 for standard review and $14,500 for expedited review.
For your state license, submittal fees are approximately $650 for a Type 41 license and approximately $12,000 for a Type 47 license.
If a new license is unavailable, you may be able to purchase an existing license, which could cost about $30,000 to $50,000.
Want to Learn More About Restaurant Permitting in LA?
Visit our Complete Guide to Los Angeles Restaurant Building Permits for everything you need to know to get your restaurant reviewed and approved quickly.