Quick Guides


What's required to do business in New York City?

Select your business type for a summary of key steps for meeting government regulations when starting your business.

Use this roadmap for information about starting a bar in New York City.

Create a Business Plan

  • Develop your business idea. Every business starts as an idea. Take advantage of free Business Planning courses to translate your business idea into a business plan. REGISTER FOR BUSINESS PLANNING COURSES
  • Seek out advice. Get feedback on your business idea and plan. SBS offers hands-on, intensive instruction for your business plan and connects you with a business coach. SIGN UP FOR CLASSES
  • Write your business plan. A business plan is a living document that serves as a roadmap for your business. Here is an online guide to create your business plan. LEARN ABOUT WRITING A BUSINESS PLAN

Register Your Business

  • Choose a legal structure. This will determine who will own and be legally responsible for your business, and affects how you file your taxes.  Get free legal advice to help you choose your legal structure.  GET FREE ADVICE ON LEGAL STRUCTURES
  • Register your business. Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, and Limited Partnerships register with New York State.  General Partnerships and Sole Proprietorships register with the appropriate County Clerk.  Get free legal advice to help you file your paperwork. GET FREE LEGAL ADVICE
  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number.  If you are a sole proprietor, you may be able to use your Social Security Number instead. LEARN MORE ABOUT EIN
  • Research required insurance such as workers' compensation, liability, and disability insurance.  Some are needed for permits and licenses and protect you from loss, fines, and lawsuits.

Finance Your Business

  • Determine your financing needs. To start your business, you will need money or capital to purchase equipment and run your operations. SBS can increase your chances of getting financing for your business. GET HELP WITH FINANCING
  • Understand your insurance. Managing risk is an essential part of your business. SBS can help you learn more about your insurance coverage and the claims process. LEARN MORE ABOUT INSURANCE
  • Identify incentive programs. Your business can benefit from incentive programs that allow you to lower your cost of doing business. SBS can help you identify and access energy cost savings, tax credits and other incentives. LEARN MORE ABOUT INCENTIVES

Find and Plan Your Space

  • Find a location zoned for your business and also at the legally required distance from a school or place of worship.  Your business location and the opinion of the local Community Board will be reviewed for your liquor license application. LEARN MORE ABOUT ZONING REQUIREMENTS
  • Learn more about zoning in your neighborhood with the Department of City Planning's ZoLa map. USE THE ZOLA MAP
  • Learn about City facilities that can help your business on the Facilities Explorer from the Department of City Planning. USE THE FACILITIES EXPLORER
  • Get assistance in signing your lease. Before signing, talk to a lawyer to make sure the timing is right, the terms are legal, and the agreement is good for you.  Get free legal advice to complete a lease. GET FREE LEGAL ADVICE
  • Work with licensed professionals to plan any changes and to ensure that your space complies with building and fire codes.  Make sure your architect or contractor is licensed.
  • Ensure that your space has a Certificate of Occupancy or acceptable alternative from the NYC Department of Buildings that meets your business needs before you apply for licenses. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY
  • Professional Certification or "Pro-Cert" could save you weeks in receiving permits. Pro-Cert allows a professional to self-certify projects without initial review from the NYC Department of Buildings. LEARN MORE ABOUT PRO-CERT
  • Review your building plans for major and minor construction within your space. The NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) offers free plan examinations, and experienced client managers can help you navigate the process. GET HELP WITH PLAN EXAMINATIONS
  • Digitally plan submissions and review save time.  Have your professionals use the NYC Development Hub, including for Pro-Cert. VISIT THE NYC DEVELOPMENT HUB
  • Changes to a landmarked property or building in a historic district must be approved by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission before work can begin.  Allow time to receive approval. LEARN MORE ABOUT WORK ON LANDMARKED PROPERTIES
  • Plan to limit noise from your establishment to avoid fines.  As a rule of thumb, your establishment should not sound louder inside nearby residences than a refrigerator, or louder on the sidewalk than a lawn mower during rush hour. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NOISE CODE
  • Start your application early if you plan to serve alcohol or open a sidewalk cafe.
  • Get licensed to serve alcohol with the State Liquor Authority.  Before you begin, be sure you have a Sales Tax ID, insurance, a lease, and a Certificate of Occupancy.  Plan ahead as the process requires time, money, and Community Board consultation.  In some cases, temporary licenses are granted. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ON-PREMISES LIQUOR LICENSE
  • Plan to limit noise from your establishment to avoid fines and do not play music in front of your business to attract customers. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NOISE CODE
  • Free bike racks for the sidewalk outside your business can be requested from the NYC Department of Transportation. LEARN MORE ABOUT BIKE RACKS
  • If you serve food, health violations are sometimes identified after you open your business, such as an improperly placed hand-washing sink. Pay attention now to avoid costly changes after you are open .
  • Your construction should match what your business permits require. Make sure your licensed professional plans spaces and utilities connections to match the requirements of your business permits.
  • Consult your licensed professional about progress inspections and their cost, which may not be included in your project bid.
  • Accelerate the plan review process for new buildings or major alterations that change a building’s egress by directing your licensed professional to submit digital plans to the NYC Department of Buildings Hub. USE THE HUB
  • If you cook, prepare, or serve food, or wash dishes, utensils, trays, or other items in your establishment, check your kitchen’s grease interceptor, or plan to install one. All commercial kitchens (and cafeterias, hospitals and nursing homes with kitchens) must capture grease from sinks, woks, floor drains, and other fixtures to prevent clogging pipes and sewer backups. LEARN ABOUT GREASE INTERCEPTORS
  • To protect public air quality, businesses must get a work permit and certificate to operate, and/or registration for boilers, water heaters and industrial equipment. Please note that boilers, water heaters, and multiple dryers (for laundromats) must be registered with DEP only if they have a rated input of greater than 350,000 but less than 4.2 million BTUs/hour. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AIR CODE
Show more

Prepare to Open

  • Research specific requirements. Make sure you and your employees have all permits and licenses applicable to your business.  Use Step by Step, a tool that helps you build a customized list of requirements. USE THE STEP BY STEP
  • A Food Protection Certificate holder must supervise food and drink preparation on site during all hours of operation.  Make sure you or one of your employees takes the required class to get a certificate.  Start early, as this is required for a Food Service Establishment Permit. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FOOD PROTECTION CERTIFICATE
  • Liquor licenses cannot be taken over by a new owner.  You must apply for a new license from the State Liquor Authority.
  • Set-up your space to maximize recycling and avoid violations. Attend a DSNY training and download or order educational materials. ATTEND A TRAINING
  • Light fuel, such as charcoal and wood, must be stored carefully and in small amounts. Ingredients and equipment, such as alcohol and open flames, will affect which permits and licenses you need.
  • Business signs, if nailed or screwed into the building or if illuminated, must be approved by NYC Department of Buildings. LEARN MORE ABOUT SIGNS

  • If you are opening or currently operating a bar, restaurant, hotel or entertainment venue, please review DEP’s noise control guide for nightclubs, restaurants, bars, and cafes. VIEW THE NOISE CONTROL GUIDE
  • Post applicable worker protection posters. Follow Federal as well as New York State requirements. DOWNLOAD POSTERS
Show more

Hire a Team

  • The minimum wage for all employees in New York City is $15.00 per hour starting December 31, 2019. Businesses that violate this law will be punished. LEARN MORE ABOUT MINIMUM WAGE
  • Recruit talented staff that will contribute to the success of your business. NYC Department of Small Business Services can help you save time and money. GET HELP HIRING A TEAM
  • Be sure to comply with all applicable laws involving employee wages, including living wage, sick leave, and transit benefits. LEARN MORE ABOUT WAGE LAWS

Open and Operate

  • Display licenses and required posters.  Use the NYC Checklist for Required Signs for Restaurants and Bars. READ THE CHECKLIST (PDF)
  • Give customers clear receipts.  Show prices and print your business name and address on your invoices and receipts.
  • Develop a safe atmosphere.  Read Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments, a guide developed by the NYC Police Department and the NYC Hospitality Alliance. READ THE GUIDE
  • Give customers clear invoices.  Show prices and print your business name and address.
  • Get permits and limit air pollution. If you release fumes into the air, you may be subject to the New York City Air Pollution Control Code (Air Code).
  • Hazardous materials above threshold amounts must be registered under NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s Right-to-Know program. Many common materials such as paint, solvents, inks, pool chemicals, and cleaning products can have hazardous characteristics. LEARN MORE ABOUT RIGHT-TO-KNOW
  • All vehicles may only idle as permitted or face fines. As a general rule of thumb, no person should allow the engine of a motor vehicle to idle for longer than three minutes while parking, unless it is an authorized emergency motor vehicle, or a vehicle using an engine to operate a loading device. The legal idling time is reduced to one minute if the vehicle is parked adjacent to a school facility. LEARN MORE ABOUT IDLING REGULATIONS
  • Watch for asbestos. A licensed asbestos investigator must determine if asbestos is present, and if so then a licensed abatement contractor must contain it and give notice to NYC Department of Environmental Protection before you can demolish or renovate the structure. LEARN MORE ABOUT ASBESTOS RULES AND REGULATIONS

Learn which permits, licenses, and regulations matter to you

Use the Step by Step Tool to get an exhaustive list of requirements that matter to you.

  • 10 Minutes or less

    It takes the average person about 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire.

  • Avoid Fines & Complaints

    It takes the average person about 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire.

  • Resources and Incentives

    Many businesses qualify for money-saving incentive programs. For some incentive programs, you can try the Incentives Estimator to provide dollar-value estimates of the benefit that you might receive.