Differences Between Licenses, Permits, and Inspections
Licenses: Licenses are the city’s way of ensuring of certain types of businesses are following safe practices. They establish a legal connection between businesses and their owners. The license fee helps cover the cost of services like police and fire that businesses may require more assistance from.
Permits: Permits are proof that your plans follow city, county or state rules ("code") and are safe for you, your employees, and your customers. You must apply for permits before beginning construction.
Inspections: As you complete each phase of construction, you'll need to have inspectors visit to ensure that the work meets New York State's building code. Most inspections are performed before approval of a Certificate of Occupancy or Certificate of Use.
Applying for a Business License
Not every business in Syracuse needs a business license. There are different types of licenses, depending on your type of business. You can find the list of business license applications here. If you have questions about whether your business needs a license, call the Central Permit Office.
Most Common Business License Types:
The following business types need a Certificate of Use:
- Bars & Restaurants
- Food/Grocery/Convenience Stores
- Drug Stores
- Smoking Establishments
Second Hand License applies to:
- Used Car Dealers
- Used Car Parts Dealers
- Pawn Shops
- Antique Shops
- Consignment Shops
- Other retailers of used merchandise
- Taxi Cab Driver's License (licenses the driver)
- Ground Transportation License (license plates for the vehicle)
To apply for a business license, you'll need:
- Business Type
- Business Location Address
- Mailing Address
- Email Address
- Phone number
- State licenses related to your business type
Apply by finding the correct form, printing it out and submitting it to the city in person or by mail.
Please note that you must pay your fee by check. Credit cards and cash are not accepted.
If you have questions, please contact:
Pam Dalton, Business Licensing Coordinator
City Hall Commons
201 E. Washington St.
Syracuse, NY 13202
How long will it take to process my business license?
The time it takes depends on the complexity of your business. Some types of business licenses can be completed over the counter, while others could take weeks or months. You could need to speak with Development Services, County Health, or Fire depending on the requirements for your business location and business type. Those are the departments that will take time with plans, inspections, corrections, permits etc. The Business License Department would not be able to answer on a timeline for those departments since it is not their area of expertise.
Costs by license type
Each type of license has a fee that is based on the cost of staff time to approve. It is listed on the application form.
State Seller's Permits
If you will be selling anything that is subject to sales tax, you must register with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and obtain a Certificate of Authority. The Certificate of Authority gives you the right to collect tax and to issue and accept most New York State sales tax exemption certificates. Generally, the seller collects the tax from the purchaser and remits it to New York State. You must register with the Tax Department at least 20 days before you begin business. New York State will then send you a Certificate of Authority which must be displayed at your place of business at all times.
New York State Liquor Authority
If you are opening a bar or restaurant, or if you already have a business without a permit to serve alcohol, getting one could increase traffic and revenue, but you will need to apply for a liquor license with the New York State Liquor Authority.
The basic requirements are being 21 years of age and a US citizen with no criminal convictions. A felony DWI, certain misdemeanors and out-of-state convictions can all disqualify you. If you meet the basic requirements, you can obtain an application by calling the New York Liquor Authority offices or by downloading the form from their website. To serve wine or beer at offsite events, you will need a catering liquor license.
It is important to know that not every business location can be approved for a liquor license. You must be at least 200 feet from schools and religious buildings. There may be other restrictions as well, based on the building’s zoning and use.
Make sure the plan accordingly because it can take many months to secure your liquor license.
Once I file an application, is the information available to the public?
All information on most license and permit applications becomes part of the public record except information like your social security number, federal tax ID, and New York State driver’s license number, all of which would not be provided in a public records act request. A subpoena would be required to obtain that information.
Renewing your License
Some licenses renew annually, and some renew every 2 years. You will be told when your license is issued whether it is for one year or two.
Renew by Mail
For Certificate of Use, a renewal notice is mailed to the license address 60 days before the due date. The renewal reminder letter from the city includes instructions on how to pay by mail.
All other business license types do not receive a notice. You are still responsible for payment even if you do not receive a notice.
All licenses except taxi licenses must be paid by the date of expiration. Taxi licenses have a 10 day grace period.
Edits to Your Business License
Mailing Address Change: If you change your mailing address during the year, contact the Business License Department to report the change.
Change of Location: If you change your location during the period your license is valid, you may have to go through the application process all over again. Please call the Business License desk before you change locations to find out if you must reapply.
Closing your Business License: You must cancel your Business License if you are no longer operating your business in Syracuse.
Display of License
You must prominently display your license at your place of business. If the business is operated from a vehicle, an identifying decal issued by the City shall be affixed to the vehicle, and the business license shall be carried by the licensee.