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.
Starting a business in Vancouver is an exciting endeavour — but it involves a few technical steps, especially in the wake of COVID-19. For Vancouver to issue you a business licence, you’ll have to meet certain city requirements. If you run a specialized business, 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 a Business Licence
The City of Vancouver recommends you first call their Inquiry Centre at 604-873-7611 to check on the location and zoning requirements if you are applying for a commercial business licence. This may sound like an additional burden, but this call ensures the location you want to lease is right for the business you want, complies with zoning regulations and that the building is up to code.
After this initial call, you can fill out an application for a business licence. There are a few different forms, but you will most likely fill out the General Business Licence application. This is for a commercial, industrial, home-based, or out-of-town business permit. There are additional licence applications for rental property businesses, vehicles for hire, dance lessons, soliciting for charity and special events.
Once you’ve filled out the application, submit it to the city online with the required fees and supporting documentation. Because of COVID-19 you are only able to submit paperwork via mail or e-mail, until restrictions loosen. Applications may take a bit longer if they are mailed, the city cited them taking around 8 to 10 weeks, and due to COVID-19 processing times are expected to be delayed. Generally, the city advises you to apply online to process your application quicker.
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Business Types: Commercial, Industrial, Home Based or Out of Town
The city will issue licences for several business types. These fall into the following general categories: commercial or industrial businesses run out of a building in an area zoned for commercial or industrial use; home-based businesses run out of a residential space; or out-of-town businesses primarily located outside of the city limits that frequently provide products or services or otherwise carry-on operations within Vancouver.
Special Permits for Special Types of Businesses
When you apply it’s worth noting that some businesses come with additional permit requirements. These may come from federal or provincial regulations surrounding the businesses activity. A few examples are the following:
- Cannabis retail stores
- Liquor-serving establishments
- Trades and construction
- Casino or bingo facilities
- Rental properties
- Vehicles for hire
If you are unsure whether you might have to provide additional documentation to the city to run your business, it’s best to check out the regulations at the city’s business website.
The general fee for getting a new Vancouver business licence is $58, however that can vary based on the type of business, the number of people engaged in the business, and floor space. Renewals happen on an annual basis, as every licence expires on December 31. It’s therefore a good idea to get in your renewal request early, before the busy season at the end of the year.
Prohibited Vancouver Businesses
The city also forbids certain types of businesses to operate in Vancouver. According to the official website, this is to protect animal rights as well as human rights. A list of banned businesses is in the City By-Law 5156. If your business-type is on this list, Vancouver may not issue you a permit.
Tips for Success with a Vancouver Small Business
In addition to offering guidelines for applying for a new business licence, the City of Vancouver’s website asks new entrepreneurs to assess whether they are ready for the challenge of starting a business. One way to make the challenge easier is to make a business plan and use tools — such as those provided by Square — to streamline your sales and upgrade your reporting.