How to Get an Ottawa Business Licence

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, accounting, or tax advice. The information contained herein is subject to change and may vary from time to time in your region. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

You’ve decided to open a business in Ottawa. Exciting! For Ottawa to issue you a business licence, you’ll have to meet certain city requirements. If you run a business in a certain industry, like in the health or wellness sector, you may have to follow additional rules. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Applying for an Ottawa Business Licence

The City of Ottawa in Ontario recommends setting up an appointment, as all business licence applications are received in person. Depending on the type of business you operate and your exact location, you may also need a municipal licence, which involves understanding location and zoning requirements if you are applying for a commercial business licence. This ensures the location you want to lease is right for the business you want and complies with zoning regulations, and that the building is up to code.

Print and fill out the General Business Licence application. There are a few different forms, but this is the first you will fill out. This application is for a commercial, industrial, home-based, or out-of-town business permit. There are additional licence applications for certain business types.

Once you’ve filled out the application, submit it to the city in person with the required fees and supporting documentation. If you are only renewing your business licence, you can drop off your fees at one of the city’s drop boxes. Because of COVID-19, the city continues to use thorough cleaning protocols daily. Each municipal office is open till 4:30 pm, but you’re asked to please arrive before 4:00 pm (walk-in or appointment). To set up an appointment or for other questions, please call the Client Services Centre at 613.580.2424, extension 12735. You can also email the licensing department at

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Business Types in Ottawa

The city will issue licences for several business types. These fall into the following general categories:

  • Commercial or industrial businesses in an area zoned for commercial or industrial use
  • Home-based businesses in residential space
  • Out-of-town businesses primarily located outside of the city limits that frequently provide products or services or otherwise carry on operations within Ottawa

Special Permits for Certain Businesses

When you apply for an Ottawa business licence, it’s worth noting that some businesses come with additional permit requirements. These may come from federal or provincial regulations surrounding the business’s activity. A few examples are the following:

  • Cannabis retail stores
  • Adult entertainment establishments
  • Liquor-serving establishments
  • Trades and construction
  • Casino or bingo facilities
  • Rental properties
  • Vehicles for hire

You can find more information at the city’s business website if you’re not sure if you’ll need to provide additional documentation. You can also perform a search on your own to see what types of licences or permits you may need to secure using the city’s BizPal connection.


The general fee for setting up a business in Ontario is $60. Begin by registering your business in the Ontario Business Registry. If you must complete a business name search, this can increase the fee to $300. The fees for a new Ottawa business licence vary based on the type of business, the number of people engaged in the business, and floor space. Renewals take place on an annual basis.

Note: Some businesses may not be allowed to operate in Ontario or within Ottawa city limits. Please contact your local Business Service or Client Services Centre for more information.