Rhode Island Business License

Rhode Island with its strong infrastructure, economic reforms, and small business incentives stands out as a destination with several opportunities for any new or existing business entity. Apart from the process of registration, one of the other important aspects of forming and transacting a business in the state is “business license.”

Although, all businesses in Rhode Island doesn’t require licenses but there are specific businesses that will require single or multiple licenses and/or permits to become operational. There is however certain licenses that are issued by the state while some are issued by the city or county. The Department of Business Regulation is oversees the issuance of business license in Rhode Island for businesses in the following sectors or categories:

  • Banking
  • Securities
  • Design Professionals
  • Commercial Business Activity
  • Liquor Wholesale & Manufacturing
  • Insurance

Step-by-Step Guide to a Business License in Rhode Island

What are the requirements for obtaining a business license in Rhode Island? Which business entities require a license and who requires permits? Who is the issuing authority for these licenses? Here is a step-by-step approach towards acquiring licenses or permit in the state:

Step#1: The Industry or Business Type

How would you know what type of business or professional license is required to operate in Rhode Island? Which type of business license is issued by the state? The type of industry or the activities of a business entity helps in identifying the type of business license required.

In the state of Rhode Island, issuance of licenses is coordinated under specific projects. In order to understand this, let us take a look at some examples:

Food Services

Any business that serves food requires a food service license. This includes eat-in restaurants, take-outs, food delivery, mobile food trucks, caterers, soft-serve ice cream machine vendors, and temporary food services among others.

An eat-in restaurant will require a restaurant business license while a soft-serve ice cream machine vendor will require a frozen dessert license.

  • Restaurant Classification: An eat-in restaurant includes Full Service Restaurant, Bar, Lounge, Tavern, Luncheonette, Snack Bar, Fountain, Cafeteria, Buffet Service, Fast Food Service, School (In-Feed) etc.
  • Fees: The fee varies according to the type of business and other details like the fee of a Rhode Island company license for a restaurant will depend on whether it is “50 Seats or Less” or “More Than 50 Seats.” The fee will also vary according to the Licensing Cycle like fee for a 50 seater restaurant will be $240 in the period from March 1-July 31 and $120.00 in the period from November 1-February 28.
  • Expiration Date/Renewal: The expiration date for a restaurant license is April 30 each year.
  • Application: License Application
  • Issuance: License is issued by Department of Health, Office of Food Protection

Liquor License

If you are planning to serve liquor in a restaurant or are planning to manufacture, import, export, store, sell and transport alcoholic beverages, then you will require a business license in Rhode Island.

The licenses are categorized under:

  • Liquor Wholesalers: Class A, Class B, and Class C
  • Liquor Manufacturers: Brewery, Brew on Premises, Brewpub, Farmer Winery, Distillery, and Winery
  • Liquor Retail Licenses
  • Liquor Agents and Salespersons


  • Fee: The fee for acquiring a liquor license will depend on the category of liquor business like the Annual license fee for Wholesale Class A is $2,000 while that of a “Brew on Premises” is $100 if less than 50,000 gallons.
  • Expiration Date/Renewal: The expiration date for this business license is December 01 each year.
  • Application: Sample License Application
  • Issuance: License is issued by Division of Commercial Licensing, Liquor Section

Step#2: Licenses issued by City/County

If your business or industry type doesn’t fall under a statewide license project then you will have to check with the local city or county office. A Rhode Island company license can also be issued by local counties or cities in which the business is located. Let’s look at an example to understand how this works.

If you form a business in Providence, RI that focuses on entertainment like live performances, shows, disc jockeys, exhibitions, and sporting events then you will be required to apply for an “Entertainment License”. The business license fee varies according to the activity type and place like the fee is $10.00 per day for indoor entertainment and $25.00 per day for outdoor entertainment.

Note: A single day entertainment license would also require the approval of the Providence Board of Licenses.

You have to apply for the entertainment license ONLINE.

Step#3: Issuance of a Business License

How is a business license in Rhode Island issued? You have to identify the following to complete the process:

  1. The type of business or industry or activity
  2. Do you need a single license or multiple licenses?
  3. Will it be issued by the state or the city?

Once you have identified the above, all you need to do is either download the application or submit online or contact the concerned state department or city of clerk office.

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