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"Now because you have so many different places, you have so many choices, people are trying things that are totally different, that they've never even thought they would try, and they're loving it."

KeVen Parker
Owner, Ms. Tootsie's

Many websites exist to help you bring your retail idea to fruition (for example, how to create a business plan, how to establish a business entity, and how to finance your business), so we won't dive into those details here. We're assuming you've got your idea and your business plan, and you're ready to take the plunge. You're the expert at running your business. We can help you get through the approval process and provide you with the information you need to open your retail business or restaurant in Philadelphia.

opening a restaurant

Opening a Restaurant in Philadelphia, Soup to Nuts

Note that Philadelphia has two types of restaurants, those that serve alcohol and those that don't (BYOBs). The serving of alcohol is regulated by the State and should generally not affect your City licensing process. If you will be serving alcohol, you will be required to create a separate business entity for each location, as a liquor license can only be applied to a single business location.

Before you move forward with forms, licenses and permits with the City of Philadelphia, you'll need to have done some legwork.

You'll need:

  • Your business established as a legal entity.
    Contact a lawyer or a business assistance program if you need help; if you'll be establishing the business entity in Pennsylvania, you can do that online. Find all applicable state forms at the "Pennsylvania Open for Business" website: www.paopen4business.state.pa.us
  • State forms for business name, tax forms, and other state-required forms.
    These can also be obtained online at the Pennsylvania Open for Business website: www.paopen4business.state.pa.us
  • State forms for online business tax registration (the PA-100 form), including sales tax and, if you have employees, workers' compensation coverage and unemployment compensation.
    You can obtain all necessary information and fill out the required forms online at: www.pa100.state.pa.us
  • A Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you're planning on hiring any employees.
    Obtain an EIN from the IRS via the form S-4 "Application for Employer Identification Number," available by phone at 800.TAX.FORM or online at www.irs.gov
  • A location for your restaurant.
    Work with a broker to find a location that meets your needs. Be sure to find a broker who listens to your specific needs, knows the neighborhoods, and understands the retail market. Visit our Brokers page for a list of Center City retail brokerage houses.


Once you've finished the non-Philadelphia-specific tasks above, you'll need to complete 5 straightforward steps to open your restaurant in Philadelphia.

1. Get your license

To operate in the city of Philadelphia, you'll need a Business Privilege License. The quickest and easiest way to register your new business with the City of Philadelphia is on the Department of Revenue's website. From there you can select which taxes you need to register for and obtain a Business Privilege License all at once. You can pay online with a credit card or mail in your payment. There is no need to stand in line in the Municipal Services Building Concourse, and the online system checks to make sure that you have submitted complete information to ensure speedy processing. Register at https://ework.phila.gov/revenue/ and select "Apply for a Tax Account Number." In order to operate a business in the City of Philadelphia, you MUST obtain BOTH a Business Privilege License (BPL) and a Business Tax Number. Obtaining a Business Tax Number alone does NOT satisfy or supersede the requirement for BPL.

2. Begin planning for fit-out

If you're opening a new restaurant, chances are you'll be doing at least some fit-out in your space. Your architect or engineer will obtain the necessary construction and building permits from L&I. For additional information about construction and building permits, check out the section Some Information About Philadelphia's Licensing & Inspections (L&I) or go directly to the L&I website at webapps.phila.gov/li

3. Obtain additionally required licenses

Philadelphia, like almost all locations, has a series of licenses to ensure that businesses are meeting the expectations of the community in which they're operating. As a restaurant, you'll most likely need to obtain the following licenses (and potentially additional ones), so be sure to check with your attorney and L&I to make sure you're in compliance with all applicable regulations.

  • Food Preparation License – Requires specifications for all kitchen equipment and equipment specifications, so you won't be able to apply for this until after your fit-out specifications are complete.Contact the Department of Public Health's Food Protection Office at 215.685.7495.
  • Dumpster License – Required for all dumpsters in the city of Philadelphia
  • Retail Food License
  • Sales Tax License
  • Liquor License – If you will be serving alcohol, you will need to work with the state Liquor Control Board to obtain a Liquor License. The LCB can be reached at 717.783.8250

4. Obtain Certificate of Occupancy and final Health Department inspection

Once you have completed all of your fit-out and all licenses have been obtained, L&I will perform a final inspection and, once you pass, will issue a Certificate of Occupancy. The Health Department will conduct the final inspection, after which you will be legally permitted to open as a restaurant.

5. Fire up the stove. You're ready!

In 2009, Center City Philadelphia saw 92 new restaurants open, a testament to the strength and innovation of restaurateurs. We're here to help make sure you open in short order. Not only will the city be here to help, the city will be hungry and here to eat.

For additional information on permitting, licenses, and local support resources, read the section "If You Want Additional Assistance" or "Some Information About Philadelphia's Licensing & Inspections (L&I)" on the L&I page.


But Wait – I Still Have More Questions

If you have specific questions about who to contact or if you can't find information you need, contact our Business Liaison, Michelle Shannon, at the Center City District at 215.440.5500 or by email at michelle@centercityphila.org. She will be able to point you in the right direction for the resources you require.



The information contained herein is provided for general informational purposes to assist with your planning efforts to open a business. Because each new business operation is unique, the CCD, its agents or affiliates make no representations or warranties that the information contained in these guides conforms exactly with the requirements for your specific business endeavor. As such, you should consult your business advisor, attorney, accountant or other professionals, as necessary to assist you with planning a business opening plan and process that is most applicable to your situation."