State and local-level licenses and permits for grocery stores
Each state has its laws governing retail food businesses. Depending on your location and type of operation, you may need different licenses and permits. For example, will you be selling tobacco products or alcohol? If so, your grocery business may need to work with multiple state and local agencies and departments.
Sales tax license
A sales tax license, also known as a seller’s permit, is needed by any business that sells products or services. The license is typically issued by your state’s Department of Revenue.
Retail food establishment license
If foods are directly sold to a consumer from a physical location or facility, then a retail food establishment license may be required. Licenses are generally issued by the state Department of Agriculture or Department of Public Health.
Some jurisdictions require this license (or some variation) to be obtained both at the state and local levels. For example, in Pennsylvania, not all grocery stores fall under the jurisdiction of the PA Department of Agriculture. Instead, the counties of Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Erie, Montgomery, and Philadelphia, are subject to county health requirements, including inspections and licensing. Likewise in New York City, grocery store owners must obtain a retail food store license from the NY State Department of Agriculture and Markets as well as a Food Service Establishment Permit from the NYC Department of Health.
Food processor license
If your business engages in food processing, such as meat and cheese slicing, making coffee, heating foods, making sandwiches, operating a beverage dispenser, or preparing or mixing ready-to-eat salads you may need a separate food processor license or permit.
Check requirements with your state and local government.
Alcohol and tobacco licensing and registration
State liquor authorities and local governments typically license alcohol sales. In addition, under federal law, retail beverage alcohol dealers are required to complete the Alcohol Dealer Registration.
There are also strict regulations governing the sale and distribution of tobacco products. If you sell tobacco retail or wholesale, you must obtain the required state, county, and city licenses.
General business licenses
In some counties and municipalities, a general business license is required for doing business. Some states issue this license at the state level.
Miscellaneous permits and licenses
There may also be a myriad of other licenses and permits required at the local level, including:
- Zoning and land use permits. In designated areas, local governments' zoning laws may prohibit certain business activities.
- Certificate of occupancy. The document explains how a building is legally used and/or occupied.
- Building permit. In general, major structural changes or construction require permits.
- Weighing and measuring devices. Regular inspections of these devices are usually required of stores before they are used and on a regular basis. Additionally, some jurisdictions may require that you obtain a state or local permit or endorsement.
- Sign permit. Displays and installations of signs may require this permit
- Equipment permits. Such as permits for an alarm system, dumpster, generator, or air conditioning.
States and counties mandate licenses for all food-related operations, spanning from food prep to consumption. Rigorous inspections and law enforcement in the food industry ensure public health and safety standards are met.
Contact CT Corporation’s business license team for more information about how we can help you navigate grocery store licensing requirements.