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Virginia Business License

The state of Virginia requires businesses to not only register but also acquire a business license in order to become operational. The question is – do all businesses require licenses? Most businesses require some kind of license or permit and then there are businesses that will require more than a single license or permit or a combination of both. These permits or licenses are issued by different state government agencies and local bodies depending on the type of business activity and location. Let’s look at an example:

Certain permits especially those related to environmental regulations are issued by the state Department of Environmental Quality while other Virginia company license are issued locally. For example, businesses in the City of Norfolk or the City of Virginia Beach in the following industries will require a license or permit to operate:

  • Contracting
  • General Services
  • Professional Services
  • Financial or Real Estate Services
  • Retail Merchant or Wholesale Merchant

Step-by-Step Guide to a Business License in Virginia

How do you really obtain a business license in Virginia? Which business entities require a license and which 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

The type of industry or the activities of a business entity helps in identifying the type of business license required.

Let us take a look at some examples to understand this better:

Food Services

Food services business license or permit is required for businesses that are operating in Virginia. The type of license or permit required will depend on the following:

  • Full Service
  • Fast Food
  • Take-out
  • Caterer
  • Hospital
  • School
  • Concession
  • Other types of food service

In the state of Virginia, food service establishment require a permit to operate. Apart from the permit, you need to ensure the following are in order:

  • Building Permits
  • VDH Permit
  • Approved VDH Plan Review
  • Approved equipment, supplies, food sources and signage
  • Food Training

Note: Food services establishment license or permit is also issued by the City or County your establishment is based in.

  • Fees: The fee varies according to the type of business activity.
  • Application: License Application
  • Issuance: License is issued by Virginia Department of Health

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 Virginia. The licenses are categorized under:

  • Banquet Licenses
  • Retail Licenses
  • Industry Licenses
  • Permits
  • Specialized Retail Licenses
  • Fee: The fee for acquiring a liquor license will depend on the category of liquor business. For instance, the Annual license fee for Banquet license is $190 (Wine and beer on premises) and $500 for mixed beverages on premises. Similarly, the fee for On-Premise Retail License is nonrefundable $195 and an extra fee for type of liquor like $145 for beer and $560 for Restaurant with a seating capacity of 1–100.
  • Application: Retail License Application
  • Issuance: License is issued by Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority

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 Virginia 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 Arlington County then a company license will be issued for the following:

  • Food Establishments
  • Temporary Food Establishments
  • Mobile Food Units
  • Farmers Markets
  • Water Recreation Facilities
  • Hotel/Motel Permit

The fee will vary according to the type of business. For example, food establishments will require a $40 fee to the Environmental Health Program. The business license is issued by Arlington County Public Health Division.

Sample License Application – Arlington

Step#3: Issuance of a Business License

How is a business license in Virginia 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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