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District of Columbia Business License

A business license is the key to business operations but in some states it is mandatory and in some it is not. The question is – do you need a permit or a license to operate in the District of Columbia? Yes, it is one of the minimum requirements.

Every business entity registered in the state needs to acquire a “Basic Business License (BBL)” to operate in the state. This said, businesses licensed by a certification board or body or licensed professionals will not be required to have a Basic Business License.

What is a BBL?

BBL or a Basic Business License in District of Columbia is issued by the Business Licensing Division of Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). It is a pre-requisite for businesses involved in specific activities such as operating a cafe or restaurant, consulting firms, retail or convenience stores, and home improvement business among others.

Application Procedure

In order to get a Basic Business License for a specific business activity, you will be required to submit the BBL EZ-Form along with supporting documentation depending on the category of licensure for which you may be applying

How to Get a Business License in District of Columbia

Here is a step-by-step approach towards acquiring a business license in the District of Columbia:

Step#1: Business Activity

One of the most important aspects of a Basic Business Licensing (BBL) is that it is issued for specific business activities. Let’s take a look at the categories that qualify for this type of District of Columbia company license.

Entertainment License

There are several sub-categories of business activities for which an entertainment business license is required in DC and they are:

  • Athletic Exhibition License
  • Special Event License
  • Billiard Parlor License
  • Carnival or Street Festival License
  • Moving Picture Theatre License
  • Circus License
  • Live Theatre License
  • Game Table License
  • Mechanical Amusement Machine License
  • Public Hall License
  • Bowling Alley License
  • Skating Rink License

Now, if your business activity involves gaming activity like billiard or pool tables, any board or table games, or even a bowling alley then you will have to apply for a Game Table Business License or a Billiard Parlor License or both.

Fee – Game Table License

  • License Duration: Two (2) Years
  • Application Fee: $70.00
  • Category License Fee: $102.00 per table
  • 10% Technology Fee: $19.70
  • Endorsement Fee: $25.00
  • Total Fee: $216.70 (Varies per number of tables)

Fee – Billiard Parlor License

  • License Duration: Two (2) Years
  • Category License Fee: $102.00 per unit
  • Application Fee: $70.00
  • Endorsement Fee: $25.00
  • 10% Technology Fee: $19.70 (Varies per number of units)
  • Total Fee: $216.70 (Varies per number of units)

Application Procedure

You can apply by submitting the Basic Business Licensing (BBL) Form or you can submit the licensing details ONLINE.

The other categories of District of Columbia company license for which a Basic Business License (BBL) is issued include:

  • Employment Services License Information
  • Environmental Materials License Information
  • Funeral Establishment License Information
  • General Business and Charitable Solicitation License Information
  • General Sales License Information
  • General Service and Repair License Information
  • Inspected Sales and Services License Information
  • Manufacturing License Information
  • Mobile Food Truck Licensing Information
  • Motor Vehicle Service, Sales and Repair License Information
  • Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical License Information
  • Public Accommodations License Information
  • Residential Housing Rental License Information
  • Retail Food License Information
  • Transient Housing License Information
  • Vending License

Step#2: Licenses not covered under BBL

It is important to know that a business license in District of Columbia is not always issued by Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). There are specific business activities for which licenses or permits are issued by other government or regulatory bodies. Let’s look at an example to understand this:

Opening a Restaurant

If you were to establish a restaurant that not only serves food but liquor as well then what would you require – A single license like BBL or multiple licenses or permit?


In order to serve food in your Restaurant, you will have to apply for a BBL – Retail Food business license.

Application: BBL License


In order to serve liquor in your Restaurant, you will have to apply for either of the following licenses:

  • Retailer (A) (B) (C) or (D)
  • The retailer (C) and (D) categories are broken down into classes by type of establishment:

H: Hotel
N: Nightclub
R: Restaurant
T: Tavern
X: A club or a multipurpose facility

Application: ABC License

Step#3: Issuance of a Business License

A business license in District of Columbia will be issued by different state agencies and all you have to do is complete the following process:

  1. Identify the type of business activity
  2. Identify whether you need a BBL license or other license
  3. Submit through mail or apply online

It is important to note that a business license or permit will have to be renewed annually unless specific dates have been mentioned, to keep the business operational.

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