Complete Guide to Los Angeles Restaurant Permits

Los Angeles Restaurant Permits
 
Congratulations on deciding to open a new restaurant in Los Angeles. While a huge investment of time, money and resources, it can also be spiritually rewarding and financially lucrative.
 
 
As you begin to plan and prepare for the launch of your new restaurant, there are a number of things you need to know about working with the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and the State of California when it comes to permits, approvals and timing.

For starters, you’ll be working with several different agencies, including the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS), which is notoriously difficult when it comes to granting building permits. In addition, food service establishments are required to attain permits and pass inspections that office and retail spaces do not. 

Don’t worry. We’re here to help. And truth be told, our motives are a bit self-serving. As LA residents and foodies, we love new restaurants as much as we love permits!  

We developed this guide to give you a thorough understanding of the restaurant permitting process and who you’ll be working with. We’ve also included tips we use to expedite the building permitting process, saving time and money.

Sincerely,
Mike Robinson
President, Permit Place
 
 


 
 

Table of Contents

Why Permits are Required
Glossary
Permitting Process
Site Investigation Reports
Entitlements
Permitting Departments
LA Restaurant Permits
Plan Check Documents
Site Inspections
Building Permit Timing
Expediting the Permit Process
Expediting Tips

 
 


 
 

 

COVID-19

To keep Los Angeles businesses open and its citizens healthy, safe, and informed, the city launched corona-virus.la. This site is a hub for the latest news, updates, and resources related to COVID-19. The resources page includes an entire business section that links to financial support and fund options, legal assistance programs, PPE supplier connections, and more. One resource worth calling attention to for LA restaurants is the Open For Business program. It offers restaurants commission-free digital order tools to expand contactless food options for your customers. This resource is worth spending some time with no matter what stage of development your restaurant is. 

Stay Safe!
 

 
 


 
 

Why Permits are Required

Permitting is all about safety. The city, county and state issue building codes, health codes and construction standards designed to ensure the safest environment for employees, patrons and the citizens of Los Angeles. This means protecting against fire, structural failures, improper waste disposal, unauthorized sale of controlled substances (e.g., alcohol), and much more. 

Your new restaurant will likely live in a repurposed restaurant or require the alteration of an existing office or retail space. In the permit world, the latter is known as “change of use” and requires additional steps, fees and time. 

In either scenario, you’ll want to make alterations to the interior and exterior to accommodate the look, feel, function and flow of your restaurant. These changes are known as tenant improvements.  

What are Tenant Improvements?

Generally speaking, tenant improvements will include:

  • Architectural work: Demo existing fixtures, install new fixtures, finishes.
  • Structural work: Storefront beams, support for new mechanical units going on the roof, columns.
  • Mechanical (aka HVAC) work: Roof top units (RTUs), ductwork, diffusers, thermostats.
  • Plumbing work: Restroom fixtures, floor drains, drinking fountains.
  • Electrical work: Lighting outlets, switches, panels rack (shelving permits), storage or sales racking in stores.
  • Fire sprinkler work: Sprinkler piping, sprinkler heads (which may be required by the Fire Department).
  • Fire alarm work: Low voltage fire alarms, alarm placement.
  • Signage: Exterior signs including business logo and restaurant name.

For any of these improvements, you’ll be required to secure permits and approvals from various governmental agencies, including: building and safety, health, fire, planning and zoning, and more (see the full list of LA permitting departments here). 

In addition, restaurant tenant improvements will almost certainly require the involvement of the:

  • Health department
  • Bureau of Sanitation Services
  • ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control)

 
 

Definitions

As you dive into this resource, and as you work through the permitting process, there are terms you’ll need to know. The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety put together the following glossary:

  • Food Service Establishment (FSE): A facility engaged in preparing food for consumption by the public such as a restaurant, commercial kitchen, markets, food processing plants, caterer, hotel, school, hospital, prison, correctional facility, or care institution, including bakeries, donut shops, public and private schools.
  • Existing Food Service Establishment (FSE): A facility with valid permits and/or Certificate of Occupancy, established prior to August 5, 2001 and has been operating continuously by the same owner.
  • Express Permit/E-Permit: A permit that can be obtained without required plan check review and can be obtained through the website www.ladbs.org or at LADBS Express Counter.
  • Permit Valuation: A value determined by LADBS for proposed new construction of a FSE or an alteration of existing FSE for determination of Industrial Wastewater permit and pretreatment requirements.
  • Grease Removal/Retention Device: A plumbing appurtenance or appliance that is installed in a sanitary waste system to intercept non-petroleum fats oils and greases (FOG).
  • Gravity Grease Interceptor: A gravity grease interceptor is a large (500-4,000 gallon capacity) tank which is generally located outside and placed in a location which is easily accessible for maintenance and repair (Building permit in addition to a plumbing permit required).
  • Hydro-Mechanical Grease Interceptor: A hydro-mechanical grease interceptor is a much smaller tank (20-50 gallon capacity), which is generally located inside the kitchen area adjacent to fixtures being served.
  • Potable Water Using Device: An appliance, device or appurtenance that utilizes potable water and is listed and approved by a recognized listing agency.
  • Regular Plan Check: Plan check process for plans which require a more extensive review and time.
  • Counter Plan Check: Plan check process which offers applicants the convenience and expedience of the same day plan check.

 
 
 


 
 

How the LA Restaurant Permitting Process Works

The process of securing building permits for a new restaurant in Los Angeles is a lot like submitting a  book report in elementary school (but with fewer stickers). 

  • You submit an outline to the teacher.
  • The teacher reviews and approves it, or provides suggested updates.
  • Once the outline is approved, you’re free to start writing.
  • Once a draft is completed, you submit the report to be graded.
  • You then either pass or fail the project, and failure often includes rounds of revision.

For the purposes of illustration, here’s how the building permit process works at a very high and over-simplified level. Agency in this scenario is the governmental department who grants your permit.

LA Permitting Process Diagram

Plan Check

  1. You: Submit specific plans to the appropriate agency.
  2. Agency: Plans are reviewed, and if needed, corrections (or required updates) are issued.
  3. You: Update plans as required, and then resubmit to the appropriate agency for approval.
  4. Agency: Corrections are reviewed. If corrections are not properly addressed, they are returned to the applicant again for further updating.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until plans are approved.

Permit

  1. Agency: If no corrections are issued for the submitted plans, the plans are approved and a building permit is issued.
  2. You: With a permit in hand, you are approved to start construction.

Inspection

  1. You: At specific milestones, request that the relevant agency inspect your work.
  2. Agency: Sends out a field inspector to review the construction and make sure it follows established building codes.
  3. You: If corrections are required, your team must make the field revisions, and then request that the agency come back out and reinspect the work (at extra cost to you).
  4. Agency: If no corrections are issued, a final permit is provided.

The rest of this page explores the process of securing your building permits in detail. If you have any questions, our team can help.

In the permitting game, there is time and money to be saved by working with an organization that thoroughly understands the rules and systems associated with obtaining permits in LA. 

 
 


 
 
Part 1

Site Investigation Report / Due Diligence

It’s likely you worked with a real estate agency and/or your franchisor to find your location. Hopefully it offers excellent accessibility as well as visibility. 

A critical first step before going all in on this location is to conduct a site investigation report. A site investigation report, or feasibility study, answers many important questions about a property before you invest significant time and money in design and permitting. 

Specifically, feasibilities should always answer the following questions:

  • Is my space zoned for a restaurant?
  • Can we sell alcohol?
  • What entitlements are required?
  • What are the timeframes for entitlement and permit processing?
  • What requirements will you need to comply with?
  • What fees will need to be paid?

Other questions, such as those listed below, will be specific to the scenario and more complicated to answer, but should be covered in the report. 

  • Will the city allow an open kitchen?
  • What restrictions will be placed on my proposed facility design?

Why Do a Feasibility Study?

Here’s a sample scenario: A franchise restaurant plans to open a new food service establishment in Los Angeles. They have identified two sites of interest. 

  • Site 1 (Preferred): An old bank located on the North side of Los Angeles with limited parking.
  • Site 2: A recently closed Burger King located 2 miles away in Burbank in the middle of a public parking lot.

A feasibility study is going to reveal that the old bank will require a change of use permit to be used as a restaurant. This means the building will need to be connected to the sewer system and require a grease interceptor to be installed. In addition, extra parking will need to be added close by or a valeting service made available because there are not enough parking spaces. 

In other words, Site 1 will delay the opening of the restaurant by more than one year, and cost tens of thousands more in additional construction and fees. Site 2 can enjoy the full use of the land without entitlements or extra construction. 

Feasibility studies give you all the information needed to make the best business decision for your business.
 
 

Pro Tip

Work with a local permit expediter

To aid in this process, it is always recommended to work with a permit expediter familiar with the location and working with restaurants. Reason being:

  1. They know who to talk to.
  2. They have gone through the process literally thousands of times.
  3. They can get to the right people and relevant information faster.
  4. They know what questions to ask and have industry-standard templates they can use.
  5. They know that opening on time and on budget is extremely important, so they’ll pay attention to the timing and materials for you. They’ll advise what you need to get in and out during the process.
  6. They can bring up items that first time restaurant owners may never have considered.

 

 
 

Site Investigation Report Documents

Your permit expediter will need the following information from you to complete a site investigation report.  

  • Location address.
  • Restaurant concept in a short paragraph form (e.g., fast casual wing restaurant).
  • What will be on the menu.
  • Desired hours of operation (24 hours).
  • Will you have a drive thru?
  • Will you have an outdoor patio?
  • Will there be seating inside, if so, how many seats?
  • Will you also offer takeaway?

 

Possible Step 1B

Entitlements

In an ideal scenario, the feasibility study uncovers that you are “allowed by right” to enjoy the full use of the land. This means you can build your restaurant without getting a planning approval or entitlement approval, and you can go straight to permitting (cutting time by possibly a year). 

However, if the site is not property zoned, another outcome is you’ll need to submit for entitlements. 

We like the Urban Land Institute’s definition of Entitlements: “Legal rights conveyed by approvals from local jurisdiction governmental entities to develop a property for a certain use, intensity, building type or building placement.”

In other words, a government agency “entitles” you or a developer to legally use a piece of land, build a structure and/or operate a business in a way that differs from the established rules and regulations. 

The reason entitlements exist is because it’s not always possible to follow city, county or state regulations depending on the specifics of your scenario. Examples of when entitlements may be required include:

  • Zone Changes: Property zoning dictates what you can and cannot do with your land. With restaurants, the location you’ve chosen may be zoned as residential or for a different type of commercial property (e.g., retail). To use the space, it may need to be rezoned (if possible).
  • Variance: A variance is a request to use the land in a way that differs from the established zoning ordinance. If approved, it legally waives certain zoning requirements for your restaurant. Common variances include: number of parking spaces, building height, and building setback.
  • Use Permit: When the way you plan to use the land needs special conditions to be compatible with the surrounding land use, you may need a Use Permit. Often local jurisdictions require a discretionary permit, such as a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), with defined conditions that will be used to regulate the business. Liquor licenses require a CUP.

Entitlements need to be issued before any permits will be approved. They will add costs and time to the project, but without them your project may be dead in the water. 

 
 


 
 
Part 2

Working with Departments and Governmental Agencies

In a utopian society, there is one permitting department and you’d have one point of contact to get all required plans reviewed, permits approved and inspections passed. 

I have some bad news. Los Angeles isn’t quite at utopian-level just yet.

There are two primary entities you’ll work with: The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, and the County of Los Angeles Public Health. Depending on what needs to be done, there may be a couple others, all of which are introduced below. 

What Departments are Involved in Restaurant Permitting

The two government agencies you’ll work with throughout the construction of your restaurant are the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety and the County of Los Angeles Public Health. 
 
 
LADBS Logo
 

Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety (LADBS)

LADBS is going to be the main agency with which you (and your contractors) will work. It’s where you’ll get your building permits and occupancy certificate. They will conduct a plan check, issue building permits, and then perform inspections throughout the process. 

Specifically, LADBS reviews your construction documents for handicap accessibility (ADA) and checks all proposed mechanical, electrical and plumbing improvements to ensure they meet the current building codes. 

They also assess whether your project meets the new “green code.”

CALGreen Compliance: If your project includes more than $200,000 in new construction, you will have to also comply with CALGreen. CALgreen, or the “Green Code,” is California’s green building code. Its purpose is to promote the use of building and design concepts that reduce negative environmental impacts and promote sustainable construction projects.  They are looking at the materials being used, environmental systems, air quality controls, drainage systems, and more. 

&nbps;
Contact Details:

  • Website: ladbs.org
  • Phone: 311 (within the City of Los Angeles). Outside Los Angeles, call (213) 473-3231.

 
 
County of Los Angeles Public Health Logo
 

County of Los Angeles Public Health (Health Department)

This department makes sure your restaurant complies with state and local health codes and standards. Like the LADBS, they’ll also perform a site plan check, reviewing your construction plans for building materials, surface materials (countertops), equipment, equipment installation, and ventilation systems. 

In the City of Los Angeles, you will not be able to get your building permits approval until attaining health approval. That said, you will be working with both agencies simultaneously throughout your construction project.

Website:

Other Government Agencies

Depending on what you have planned for your restaurant, there are a couple other departments to familiarize yourself with. 

  • Los Angeles Fire Department: They will inspect for emergency exits, hydrant placement and other hazards, as well as inspect fire sprinklers and alarm systems.
  • Bureau of Sanitation Services: They will review your sewer access and make sure you have grease traps or grease interceptors in place if you’re cooking with fats, oils and greases.
  • Los Angeles Department of City Planning: They will be involved if you’re installing a drive through or changing the aesthetics of the building exterior.
  • California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC): While liquor licenses are part of the entitlement process, this state-level organization reviews your proposed hours of operation, the local crime rate and even the concentration of already issued alcohol permits in the neighborhood. They also perform background checks on all principals and ask to review business financials. You will need to have the proper zoning and conditional use permits in place to attain any type of liquor license.

Related Resource

The Departments Key to Opening a Restaurant in Southern California

 
 


 
 
Part 3

What Permits Do LA Restaurants Need?

What permits you’ll need will largely depend on your location, site 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.

In this guide we focus more on construction permits as that’s our area of expertise.

Construction Permits

Construction permits are required to begin work on your restaurant and come before you’re allowed to open your doors to patrons. 

  • Change of Use Permits: Simply put, if you are going to remodel an existing building and you are not putting the same type of business back into the space, then you are changing its use and need to get permit approval.   
  • Building Permit: A building permit is the official approval to go ahead with the actual construction or remodeling of your restaurant.
  • 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 (in other words advertisements) can be displayed to the public.
  • Dumpster Placement Permit: Dumpsters can be eyesores and smell awful (especially for restaurants), which is why LA requires that you 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

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. 

  • Food Service License
  • Food Handler Permit
  • Local Business License
  • Resale Permit
  • Employee Health Permit
  • Seller’s Permit
  • Valet Parking Permit
  • Conditional Use Permits
  • Liquor License
  • Liquor Licenses or Alcohol Permits

There are two main types of liquor licenses for restaurants:

  • Type 41 – On Sale Beer and Wine Meeting Place.
  • Type 47 – On Sale Beer, Wine and Hard Liquor Meeting Place.

 

Related Resource

Which California Liquor License is right for you?

 
To be awarded either license, your restaurant must be a “bona fide eating place.” In other words, it must:

  • Include suitable kitchen equipped to serve ordinary meals (versus only appetizers to accompany drinks).
  • Show that a minimum of 51% of your gross receipts are from food sales.

In addition, before issuing a state liquor license to you, the ABC requires that you obtain any zoning permits that may be required by your local municipality. 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 permits the serving of alcohol on the property itself and may remain for use by a future business if ownership changes. Conversely, a liquor license is issued to the owners of the business allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages at a particular location. 

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 population at the county level.
  • High crime rates: “High crime” exists if the crime rate exceeds the municipality’s average by 20%.
  •  

If either case exists, 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. 

Turnaround Time

It can take between three and 12+ months to obtain zoning approval. The time to get ABC approval can also vary, but not as much. You can expedite the process, but in the City of Los Angeles, this can double your application fee. 

Budget

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.

 
 


 
 
Part 4

Plan Check Documents

Finally, it’s time to submit your plans to the appropriate agency for review and permit approval. 

To ensure the fastest turnaround, it’s imperative that you put your best foot forward the first time. Requests for additional information or properly formatted documents require resubmittal and going back to the beginning of the queue. 

This is a point where you’ll truly benefit from partnering with a professional who understands how the process works. Reason being, there’s providing what’s requested in a packet, and then there’s providing a packet that simplifies the life of the reviewer. The latter works more in your favor. 

What Plan Submittal Documents Do I Need?

What’s required of your plan submittal depends on the agency you’re working with and the permit you’re requesting. That said, the following information and documents are nearly always required to obtain a restaurant building permit. 

  • Name, phone number, and address of the applicant.
  • Construction valuation to determine building permit fees.
  • Plot plan including all buildings, property lines, parking availability, grease interceptor location, and outdoor dining (if applicable).
    • Identify the location of the proposed grease interceptor on the plans. Note a grading permit will be required for interceptors deeper than 5-feet from grade.
  • Floor plan (1/4″:1″ scale and fully dimensioned) with existing floor plan, proposed floor plan, occupancy/occupant load floor plan, egress routes, and highlighted work areas. Some restaurant requirements include:
    • Doors should be a minimum 36-inches wide.
    • Toilet and Dressing Rooms: At least one toilet is required on premise, but if more than three employees are working or if you’re selling beer, wine or liquor to be consumed on premises, separate toilets for each gender are required. The men’s bathroom must include a urinal, and all restrooms need self-closing doors. Entrances must be at last ten feet apart or separated by view screens.
    • Ventilation: Kitchen hood type 1 and 2, and exhaust duct systems must be provided over all cooking equipment (gas or electric) that produce smoke, grease, heat or steam. Kitchen and food preparation areas should be provided with a minimum exhaust rate of 0.7 CFM/Sq. Ft., and dining rooms should have a minimum of 525 CFM of outside air or provide natural ventilation.
  • Reflected ceiling plan including details for suspended ceiling. Ceiling heights must be 8-feet minimum throughout. Toilet rooms may be 7-feet 6-inches.
  • Disabled accessibility compliance plan including accessible path of travel from the public way, parking, restroom dimensions, seating and bar/counter elevation, and changes in elevation.
  • Green code compliance with GRN forms 1, 5 (completed filled out), 11, 12 (if landscaping is included) 15 and 17; and a narrative describing changes to systems (e.g., HVAC, lighting, renewable energy, water reuse systems) and how the system will be tested and adjusted.
  • Roof plan if new equipment or modifications are being proposed.
  • Building section plan with cross-sections to indicate ceiling height, wall heights and soffits or suspended ceilings. Make sure to include exterior and interior elevations of the building.
  • Stamped structural drawings, engineering calculations and construction specifications must be prepared by a licensed architect and/or civil/structural engineer.
  • Civil drawings including landscape plans and site drainage information.
  • Demolition plans (if required).
  • Erosion and dust control processes.
  • Asbestos information on demolition and remodels.
  • Stamped fire protection drawings.
  • Plumbing and mechanical drawings.
  • Building permit history.

Prepare to have three (3) sets of building/structural plans ready plus two (2) sets of structural calculations.

For more detail about the specific information LADBS requires, check out its PDF on the topic. 
 
 

Pro Tip

Include a Cover Sheet

To aid in this process, it is always recommended to work with a permit expediter familiar with the location and working with restaurants. Reason being:

  • General construction notes and owner, tenants, architects and engineer’s contact information.
  • Legal description (tract #, lot #, block #) or tax parcel number.
  • Codes Summary – What code publications and editions are used in the design.
  • Scope of work.
  • Location of work clearly defined.
  • Footprint – square footage of floor area in project.
  • Index of drawings.
  • Allowable height.
  • Allowable area.
  • Building occupancy group.
  • Building construction type.

 

 
 

LADBS Counter Plan Checks

So long as your project does not require a change of use permit, LADBS’s downtown office offers an over the counter plan check. This is a faster, interactive way to get plans reviewed by the City of Los Angeles. It’s not available for all projects, but projects like medium-sized tenant improvements can take advantage. 

According to the LADBS,

“Counter Plan Check offers the convenience and expedience of having a plan review and obtaining a permit without the need to make an appointment. It also allows applicants to interact with the plan check engineer right there at the public counter. The type of plans that are typically reviewed at the counter are small- and medium-size projects, such as tenant improvements, small office and retail buildings that can be reviewed in approximately 45-60 minutes. Counter plan check is offered at our Metro (Downtown), Van Nuys, and W.L.A. Construction Service Centers.”

 
To have a project counter plan checked, you’ll want to be prepared with:

  1. An 8. 5″ × 11″ site plan prepared showing property lines and streets.
  2. Records of the previous Certificate of Occupancy and recent Building permit (gathering records in the City of Los Angeles is not easy if you don’t know how).
  3. A set of drawings.
  4. A blank check payable to the “City of Los Angeles” for plan check fees.
  5. A good book. Waiting for over-the-counter plan check can take some time.

 
 


 
 
Part 5

Site Inspections

After you obtain a permit and begin construction work, inspections are next. Before your restaurant can open for business, inspections need to be passed and final permits rewarded. 

Work is generally inspected and approved in succession and no work may continue beyond the point indicated in each successive inspection without first obtaining the approval of the inspector. 

If the work that needs to be inspected will be concealed by another part of the project, you are required to get it inspected before the concealment work is started. Otherwise, you’ll have an unexpected demolition detour. 

What happens during an inspection?

Building inspections

LADBS plan check reviews and inspections are handled by two different parts of the department, so you won’t be working with the same person. 

During the inspection, an inspector is ensuring that codes and standards are being applied, and until he or she signs off on the construction, the project is not approved.

Some common items that require inspection, include (but are limited to): 

  • Foundation excavations
  • Concrete work
  • Wood framing
  • Mechanical HVAC
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Shear wall nailing
  • Roof nailing
  • Sign

Before final building inspection, you’ll need to have health department approval. 

Health Department Inspection

With the health department, the person who reviewed your plans will also be the one inspecting your work so they’ll have some familiarity with your project. 

The health inspector will want to review your equipment list and make sure everything is operating property. They’ll also evaluate surfaces (e.g., countertops) making sure the material can be adequately cleaned. 

Be prepared for health inspectors to issue multiple corrections, like the swing of a door or the material finish on your countertops. Do what they say the first time. They can get real salty if they have to repeatedly ask for updates.

What to Prepare for an Inspection

Your contractor will often be the one responsible for requesting an inspection, but you’ll need to be prepared. 

It’s good to have relevant information and documentation at the ready. Any missing items can delay the inspection and thus hold up the project. Make sure you have: 

  • A copy of the permit.
  • A copy of approved plans (if plan review was required).
  • The Building Card issued at the time of permit issuance (this is applicable to Building Permits only).
  • Any equipment needed to do the inspection, such as a ladder.
  • Plans on site.
  • Equipment lists and how things work and operate.

Also, all the work that’s being inspected should be visible. Anything concealing the inspected part of the project will be asked to be removed. Depending on what’s involved it may require you rescheduling an inspection off-hours at additional cost.

 
 


 
 
Part 6

How Long Does It Take to Get a Building Permit?

Generally 2 to 4 months, but plan for more

 
Staying on time and on budget is very important, and to ensure things stay on track it’s good to have an idea of how long things take to happen. 

While both the building and health departments are staffed by good people who want to see good things happen in their neighborhoods, they have a lot of other projects to manage. It is your responsibility to make their job as easy as possible and have everything they need ready when they need it. 

Generally speaking, expect the process from plan submission to ready-to-issue (RTI) permit to take between two and four months. And that’s if everything goes smoothly. 

High-Level Process and Timing

Following is a high-level look at the different steps and how long each tends to take. 

  1. Preliminary Plan Review: This is not required but recommended as it can streamline reviews later. Submit one (1) set of drawings to get code interpretations early. An appointment must be requested and will be fulfilled approximately 5-15 business days after request. This step will reduce the risk of a third submittal and will answer LADBS Green and LADBS Specific ADA questions.

    Total Time: 5-15 business days after preliminary plan review request.

  2. Building/Structural Plan Review: Building and structural reviews will be handled by the same person. Reviews will take place 5 to 10 days after they are assigned. Expedited reviews reduce the assignment time.

    Total Time: 15-25 business days to first comments.

 
 

Pro Tip

Submit before noon on Thursday

Plans are assigned and distributed to staff on Fridays. Submitting before noon on Thursday can reduce plan review time by one week.
 

 
 

  1. Response from AE Professional: Ask your architect or engineer about how long they typically take to respond to comments.

    Total Time: Expect 5-10 business days

  2. Health Plan Review: You will need to submit a copy of the menu, equipment cut sheets and equipment list, and a materials surfaces sample board. The first review happens within 20 business days, at which point comments will be issued.

    After comments come back, you can submit for a re-review, which usually takes 10 business days. If there are additional comments, you’ll typically have an appointment meeting to go over the comments.

    Once the health department approves your plans and stamps the sheets, you need to take the approval letter and the stamped plans back over to the LADBS reviewer.  They will usually not stamp plans that are not health reviewed.

    Total Time: Expect 30-40 business days.

    When first comments are issued after the Building/Structural Review, clearances and clearance comments will also be released. Before a second building/structural review can be completed, you’ll need to take care of all clearances.

    Some common clearances include:

    • Green Clearance is an appointment plan Review. Appointment requests are typically scheduled 5-10 days after requested.
    • DAS Review is an appointment plan review. Appointment requests are typically scheduled 5-10 days after requested.
    • Health clearance. See above for timing details.
    • Other clearances such as sanitation, sewer, public works, fire, planning may be required.
  3.  

  4. Stamp Transfer: Once all clearances are completed, all stamps must be transferred to the final set of documents. Stamp transfers are appointments and must be requested. They typically happen five business days from the day of request.

    Total Time: Expect 5 days.

  5. Final Building Review: Once all stamps are transferred you can request a final review. Requests for final review appointments are scheduled. Appointment requests are dependent on a reviewer’s schedule and typically happen within 5-15 business days of request.

Once a review is approved, a permit is deemed Ready To Issue (RTI). RTIs process within one business day. 

Other Permits

Concurrently, to the above, you’ll need to apply for and attain mechanical, electrical and plumbing permits. You’ll submit separately for each section. 

In terms of timing, for each of these sections, expect: 

  1. 5-10 business days from the first submittal to get first comments.
  2. 5-10 business days to schedule a recheck appointment.

 
 


 
 
Part 7

How to Expedite the Building Permit Approval Process

The inescapable truth about restaurant building permit approvals is they take time. When permitting stalls, you may think the reason is because the building codes are getting too stringent or because of government workers?

In our experience, this is rarely the case. 

The main reasons for longer wait times when processing building permit applications usually center around development engineering, utilities, planning and land use issues. These are commonly out of most people’s control.

That said, when delays happen (and they will), they can jeopardize your budget and schedule. 

For this reason, it is imperative your project is not just another stack of papers sitting on someone’s desk waiting. Avoid this by utilizing your communication skills and personality to shine through the permitting process. In other words, use the three Ps: 

Proactive Attitude

Do your research before bombarding the reviewer with a laundry list of questions. Find out what’s available online to answer the simple questions, and then consolidate important queries for the reviewer.

By doing this, you’ll demonstrate that you appreciate the their time, and a familiarity with the topic can help establish a more of an easy-going (and dare I say fun) conversation.

Personable Presence

First impressions are lasting impressions. Be confident in the subject. Be friendly. Be appreciative. And where appropriate, be funny. You catch more flies with honey.

Persistent Communication

Be respectfully persistent. Follow-up to avoid getting pushed-down the priority list. Don’t smother the reviewer, but always make yourself available to answer any questions or provide additional information. This can help streamline the review and give your project a name and a face, or at minimum a voice.

 
 
 

Pro Tip

9 Tips For Getting Los Angeles Restaurant Permits Approved

In addition, follow these nine tips to help expedite the restaurant review process. 

  1. If you are going to serve alcohol, you need to get two (2) permits. One from the State ABC Licensing Board and the other from the City—a conditional use permit (CUP). They are separate approvals from your remodeling permit and the ABC depends on the CUP.
  2. If you are dealing with grease, you’ll need to make sure the owner installed a grease trap interceptor. If not, one will have to be put in, and you’ll need to make sure your lease clearly states who pays for such upgrades.
  3. If you want outdoor seating, you need a permit from the Department of Engineering. If you want that seating to extend into an adjacent parking lot or parking lane, you’ll need the LA Department of Transportation.
  4. If you don’t have ADA access to your restrooms, you may need to bring the space into compliance. This is a sign-off and not a separate permit in the City of Los Angeles.
  5. Remember that all of these agencies are located in different parts of the city and you will need to plan accordingly. Schedule times (and add buffers) to drive to the locations and go through the process.
  6. The City and County of Los Angeles have experienced huge staff reductions and limited hours due to the City budget crisis. Make sure you allow for additional processing time for your applications. In addition, account for appointment scheduling delays thanks to limited staff hours.
  7. If you are changing from a retail store to a restaurant you must apply for a change of use permit, not to be confused with a conditional use permit. The former is easier than the latter.
  8. If you do have to get a change of use permit, then you must show that you have adequate parking available, which means you must show it on your plans.

And, probably the most important tip of all: 

  1. Remember that City and County employees work hard just like you. They care about their community and what goes into it. Tell them the details about your project, and ask for their input and suggestions. Build relationships with them because they may be your first customers.

 

 
 

LA Restaurant Permit Expediters

As you can see based on the above, attaining restaurant permits is a complicated process that isn’t simplified by the fact that Los Angeles is a large thriving city. Permit Place is a permit expediter. We’ve worked with business to attain hundreds of entitlements and permits to launch restaurants quickly and cost effectively.

If you’re interested in help, we’re here. You can read more about our services on our Los Angeles Permit Expediters page.
 
 

Additional Reading on the Topic