11 Licenses & Permits You Need To Open A Restaurant In Canada
restaurant licenses permits canada

11 Licenses & Permits You Need To Open A Restaurant In Canada

March 22, 2024

Are you planning to open a restaurant in Canada? There are certain licenses and permits your restaurant is required to have depending on functions, location and other factors. In this guide, we’ll outline 11 licenses and permits you may need to launch your restaurant in Canada, ensuring compliance with the law and setting the stage for a growing business.

Business Licence

This is the most fundamental requirement for any restaurant looking to conduct business in Canada. Licensing requirements may differ per province, territory, and municipality. Obtaining this licence enables you to meet your tax obligations, receive a registration number, build trust with prospective customers, and mitigate liability. All Canadian businesses need a BN to file taxes and operate legally. Contractors like maintenance teams may need your number to settle payments and lodge their tax returns.

Food Handling Permit

Canadian Institute of Food Safety advises all kitchen staff, including chefs, servers, bartenders and dishwashers, to get a food handling certificate. This license shows that employees adhere to standards for sanitizing cooking equipment and utensils, washing down surroundings, understanding food allergies, storing food safely and maintaining certain standard of personal hygiene.

Import Trade Licence

Your restaurant may require this licence if you import food from another province or country. If your restaurant imports additives or alcohol from another province, you will need additional licensing. Produce and food items are exempt and you don’t require a license if you import them from another province.

Liquor Licence

Any restaurant selling spirits, beer, wine, cider, or any other alcoholic beverages must have this licence. This license dictates whether you can serve alcohol, the hours you can serve alcohol and whether patrons can take drinks off-site and into outdoor areas. Fees associated with this license can vary and are set by ACGO in Ontario and corresponding regulatory bodies in other provinces

Music and Entertainment Licence

SOCAN and Entandem licenses enable restaurants to host live music entertainment or play pre-recorded sounds published by artists and composers without infringing on Copyright Acts. You should consider this license if you plan on playing specific music or offering entertainment events.

Signage Permit

You must obtain this permit to install signage or advertisement materials on private property, such as billboards or public spaces, like sidewalks. This can even apply to signs on the sidewalk next to your restaurant or on the building of your restaurant.

Health Operating Permit

A health operating permit approves the conditions of kitchens and other food preparation spaces and confirms they’re fit for use. These permits are typically acquired from municipal or provincial regulators.

Construction Permit

Most new restaurant owners need a construction permit to expand or change buildings’ structure. It essentially pre-empts passers-by of the works planned and confirms that regulatory offices approve the development plans. If the space occupied by your restaurant requires changes, you will need a construction permit to conduct changes on the premises.

Sidewalk Patio Permit

With this permit, you can place seating areas and shelter installations on the sidewalk outside of your restaurant. Classification of this permit also applies to patio dining and is mot typically available from municipal governments.

Waste Disposal Permit

Restaurants often work with hot oils, alcoholic beverages, and have relatively high volume of food waste. This permit confirms that restaurants will dispose of hazardous waste responsibly and abide by regulations.

Parking Permit

Although situational, these permits apply to employees and delivery drivers needing to park on regulated property. Delivery of produce, alcohol and equipment can require parking permits for your restaurant to acquire.

Restaurant Type Factor

Cafes typically follow the same requirements as restaurants. Their licences and permits may be classified differently because they’re smaller and offer more takeaway options. Mobile food vendors that serve refrigerated food need a Class 1 food handling licence.  Bars often require more comprehensive liquor licences, as they serve alcohol for longer and in larger volumes. As such, your permit requirements may different in comparison to another restaurant depending on the type of restaurant you operate.

Location Factor

Licenses and permits for opening a business, handling food, and serving alcohol are mandated across all provinces to regulate core safety requirements.

Although sidewalk permissions and parking permits are equally required, different provinces may implement exclusive initiatives with varied terms and conditions. For example, the CafeTO Program in Toronto applies to restaurants and cafes utilizing outdoor space.

Varied fees apply to licences depending on your restaurant’s classification. For instance, in Prince Edward Island, Class 1A restaurants comprising more than 25 seats must pay $150, whereas a Class 4 licence applies to venues serving high-risk dishes with meat or meals for large functions and is free.


The process of obtaining licenses and permits for opening a restaurant in Canada does not have to daunting. While the requirements may vary depending on factors such as location, restaurant type, and specific initiatives implemented by provinces, adhering to these regulations is fundamental for the operation of your business.

Understanding the permit fees can help streamline the application process and ensure that your restaurant is operating within the bounds of the law and regulatory requirements. By prioritizing the acquisition of necessary licenses and permits, you can setup your restaurant for growth or face liability risks if not done correctly.

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