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Opening & Operating a Nightlife Establishment

Image of neonn sign that reads "Open Late", people at a concert and a DJ playing music to a crowd

According to our recent economic impact study of New York City's nightlife activity, there are more than 25,000 nightlife establishments across the five boroughs. Opening a new or operating an existing nightlife venue can be a challenging process, and the Office of Nightlife can help connect nightlife operators with the resources they need to be successful and be good neighbors.  

Whether you are interested in starting a new nightlife business or are already operating an existing venue in New York City, we reccommend visiting NYC Small Business Services (SBS), which has helpful information, programs and resources that can help you prepare to open and operate your business in compliance.

  • COVID-19 Reopening & Recovery Resources
  • SBS-Quick Guide to Opening a Bar
  • SBS-Quick Guide to Opening a Restaurant
  • NYC Starter Guide to Opening Your Bar/Nightclub (pdf)
  • Required Signs Checklist (pdf)
  • Zoning & Land Use

    The following links have more detailed guidance on opening food and drink establishments, including registering a business, finding space, zoning and land use, obtaining licenses, and hiring staff:

    Click a topic, or press the enter key on a topic, to reveal its answer.

    Getting Licenses & Permits

    To open a bar or restaurant in NYC, you need several certificates, permits, and licenses from various City and State agencies. Use the NYC Small Business Services Step-by-Step Wizard to get a customized list of the applicable licenses and permits, as well as additional information that you may need to know.

    Step-by-Step Wizard: Get a customized list of licenses and permits for your business


    Liquor Licensing & Community Board Process

    If your business deals with the importation, manufacture, distribution or sale of alcohol in NY, you need a liquor license. The NY State Liquor Authority issues licenses for selling alcoholic beverages. Input from local communities where applicants intend to operate their businesses is an essential part of the NY State Liquor Authority's licensing process. 

    Read more about the Liquor License and Community Board Process


    You may also be interested in:

    Hookah Laws & Permit Information

    hookah nightlife

    New NYC laws about hookah went into effect in 2018. It is now required for all hookah-serving establishments to have a permit, only serve non-tobacco shisha, and display warning signs about the health risks of hookah smoke. After October 22, 2018, no new permit applications will be accepted.

     Learn more Hookah Laws from the NYC Department of Health.

    If you have a Non-Tobacco Hookah Establishment permit, see below for additional guidance on how to comply with the law:

    Did you know?

    Businesses can create a NYC Business Portal Account to apply for or renew licenses, pay for violations or learn to avoid them, identify regulations and incentives, learn what you need to know in order to comply with New York City rules and regulations, and organize and maintain all of your City permits in one place.

    Compliance Support & Education

    NYC Small Business Services (SBS) offers client management, FREE compliance consultations, plan examinations, and inspections on behalf of many City agencies.

    The SBS on-site consultation walkthroughs will help you understand common compliance challenges faced by new or operating business owners in New York City. SBS will not issue violations or fines — SBS is available to help you understand the rules, help your business open its doors faster and remain open.

    Learn more about the SBS compliance services

    More inspection guidelines:


    Avoiding Common Violations

    Find out how to ensure compliance and avoid or reduce fines, fees and penalties associated with common violations by reviewing the NYC Small Business Services (SBS) links below:


    Workplace Laws & Worker Rights

    Visit the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (formerly the Department of Consumer Affairs) to learn about your responsibilities in the workplace as an employer as well as labor standards and policies to create a fair workplace.


    You may also be interested in:


    Stop Sexual Harassment Act

    The NYC Commission on Human Rights is the City agency responsible for enforcing the NYC Human Rights Law, one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country, which protects anyone who works, lives, or visits New York City from discrimination at work, at home, and in public places, including nightlife establishments. Nightlife establishments have responsibilities as employers and as public spaces. To learn more about the NYC Human Rights Law, please visit

    As of April 1, 2019, the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act mandated new posting and training requirements to help prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

    • Employers with 15 or more employees must ensure that their staff have received annual anti-sexual harassment training. The NYC Commission on Human Rights has launched an online training that employers can use to meet this requirement that is available on our website by visiting
    • All employers must display an anti-sexual harassment notice in both English and Spanish
    • All employers must distribute an anti-sexual harassment factsheet to individual employees at the time of hire.

    Nightlife Best Practices

    Best Practices & Patron Safety

    Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments Handbook

    The Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments handbook was created by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in conjunction with the New York City Hospitality Alliance. It was designed to assist the nightlife industry in maintaining establishments which are safe and free from illegal activity, including drug sales, underage drinking, overconsumption of alcohol, violence, assaults, and sex offenses, and what nightlife professionals should know about counterterrorism threats and preparedness.

    Download the 2018 Third Edition:

    Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments (English)

    Buenas Prácticas para Centros Nocturnos (Spanish)


    Free Downloads - NYPD Patron Safety Posters

    Protect your venue while encouraging your patrons to keep an eye on their belongings. Download and print the posters below.




    Getting to Know Your Neighborhood Coordination Officers

    Neighborhood Coordination Officers, or NCOs, are your local problem solvers. They are the cornerstone of NYPD's Neighborhood Policing program, a comprehensive crime-fighting strategy built on improved communication and collaboration between local police officers and community residents. Neighborhood Policing divides precincts into four or five fully-staffed sectors that correspond, as much as possible, to the boundaries of actual established neighborhoods. NCOs spend all their working hours within the confines of their assigned sectors, actively engaging with local community members and residents. They get to know the neighborhood, its people, and its problems extremely well.

    Use the links below to find your sector and see who your NCOs are:


    Monitoring the Sound from Your Venue

    If you play music in your restaurant, nightclub, café, bar, or establishment, you need to comply with the City's noise code, and take common sense steps to avoid unreasonable sound disturbances to better coexist with neighbors.

    Learn more about playing music in a bar or restaurant, sound mitigation and addressing sound complaints

    Guidelines for Waste Removal

    In most cases, the NYC Sanitation Department (DSNY) does not collect waste from businesses. Businesses must arrange to have garbage and recyclables removed by a licensed carting company, though owners can also apply for permission from the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) to haul their own waste. Review the links below for educational materials and trainings to assist businesses in meeting recycling and organics requirements to reduce waste before even creating it while avoiding common violations.


    Did you know?

    The NYC Sanitation Department (DSNY) recently launched food portal for businesses wishing to donate excess food.

    The Office of Nightlife encourages establishments that serve food to consider implementing a regular food rescue program to regularly donate food surplus to those in need.

    Making your Venue Accessible & ADA Compliant

    Additional Information & Resources

    The Office of Nightlife serves as a liaison between City agencies, nightlife business owners, employees, performers, patrons, and residents to help ensure a vibrant, safe, efficient, and fair nightlife environment in New York City. 

    Here you will find a collection of quick links to connect business owners, patrons, employees, and residents to the programs, resources, and information provided by City agencies that affect nightlife.

    This website is a resource for the nightlife community and industry. We will be making regular updates and welcome suggestions, corrections and ideas. Contact the Office of Nightlife