Choose a Location
Find a location
Find a location zoned for your business. Every location is zoned differently - some could require a “Change of Use” or “Conditional Use” application, which can include a public hearing and neighborhood notification.
Visit the Planning Information Center
Visit the SF Planning Department's Planning Information Counter at 1660 Mission St. to understand zoning and building codes. These requirements will determine where you open your shop.
Review ADA guidelines
Review Americans with Disability Act (ADA) guidelines to make sure your business is accessible.
Sign your lease.
Sign your lease. Leases can be tricky, so review the lease carefully with a lawyer before signing.
Your landlord is required to provide information about the accessibility of the building, in case it needs renovations.
Set Up Your Business
Create a plan
Create a plan for the type of shop you will open.
Choose a business structure
Choose a business structure. LLCs, Corporations, and Limited Partnerships must register their structure with CA Secretary of State before registering locally.
Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number from the IRS. This is used to identify your business and allows you to hire employees. If you are a sole proprietor without employees, you may choose to use your Social Security Number instead.
Register your business
Register your business with the City through the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector (TTX).
If you register your business before choosing a final location, you will have to update your registration with the new address. This can cost money and time.
Choose and file a business name
File a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) Statement at the SF Office of the County Clerk if you will be using a name other than your given name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.
Apply for a Seller’s Permit
Apply for a Seller’s Permit from the CA State Board of Equalization. Every location must have this permit to sell taxable goods.
Prepare Your Space
Submit plans and documents to the SF Department of Building Inspection. Change and resubmit plans as needed.
Identify Hazardous Materials
Identify any hazardous materials that you will store, handle, or use. Storing hazardous materials may require modifications to your space and approval from the Fire Department. Your staff will also need to be licensed to handle or use any hazardous materials.
Note! DPH staff will conduct inspections at least every 3 years but you must also complete quarterly self inspections
Gas and Electric Services
If your business needs new or additional gas or electric services, contact PG&E Building and Renovation Services to start the application process.
Transit Impact Development Fee
If your business will increase the number of people coming to your area, you may have to pay a Transit Impact Development Fee to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA).
Some businesses may be eligible for fee waivers or reductions, including small businesses and non-formula retail expanding or occupying pre-existing commercial space not exceeding 5,000 gross square feet.
If you want to install or change a canopy or sign on the outside of the building, ensure you comply with the SF Planning Department sign guidelines.
The types of items you sell, such as electronics, pets, and used equipment, will affect which permits and licenses you need. The Portal can help you determine which permits and licenses are necessary for you.
Plastic Bag Ban
Do not use plastic check-out bags. Additionally, you must charge 10¢ for all allowable checkout bags. Allowed checkout bags include compostable bags, recycled paper bags, or reusable bags.
If you will have a Point of Sale (POS) station (also called a cash register), you must register it with the SF Department of Public Health Weights and Measures Program.
Make sure your register is equipped to print your business name and address on your receipts.
If you plan to hire employees, be sure to follow all wage and employment guidelines.
If you plan to display merchandise on the sidewalk, you must be able to provide 6 ft. of sidewalk clearance and obtain a Sidewalk Display Permit from the Department of Public Works (DPW).
Place of Assembly Permit
If 50 people or more will gather in your bar at any time, you will need a Place of Assembly Permit from the SF Fire Department.
If you plan on playing music over speakers, you must obtain a music license from at least one of the major music companies, like Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) or the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Establishments under 3,750 SQ FT are exempt.
If you want bike racks in front of your shop, you must follow the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) bicycle parking guidelines. The MTA installs racks for short-term bike parking (under two hours) in the public right-of-way (on the sidewalk or in the parking lane) by request, at no charge.
Post required posters and permits
Post all required posters and permits including No Smoking signs, minimum wage information, OSHA posters etc.
Mark your calendar. Set reminders to renew your permits and licenses as needed.