Legal Requirements

Find out what you need to operate legally

You need to meet certain local legal requirements to start your business. These may include a business license, a DBA filing, and inspections. The State of New York also has requirements.

Business Licenses: Who needs one?

Certain types of businesses require a business license. In Syracuse,  there are different types of business licenses. They are intended to protect the general public, and ensure the business is meeting public safety requirements. Not every business needs a license, but failure to comply with licensing requirements could result in additional fees, penalty payments and/or operational restrictions.

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 Licenses:

  • Taxi Cab Driver's License (licenses the driver)
  • Ground Transportation License (license plates for the vehicle)

Complete List of Businesses Requiring a License

How do I get one?

Submit the correct License Application and fees (check or money order only) to the Central Permit Office. Some types of licenses also require additional documents, such as a driver’s license or proof of insurance.

How does the City review my application?

On every kind of business license the Central Permit Office will check to be sure the applicant doesn’t owe the City any money (water bills, taxes, parking tickets, etc.). Some licenses also require a background check, and some require an inspection of the business location by the Fire Prevention Bureau, Code Enforcement, and Zoning.

How long does it take?

Assuming all the above reviews are satisfactory, the license can be issued in as little as two weeks, depending on the type of license, the inspection results, the applicant’s willingness to address any shortcomings, and other factors. We do our best to issue all licenses within 3 months of application.

How long is it good for?

Most licenses are good for one year; each license application will specify the applicable time period (ex: the Certificate of Use is renewable every two years). All licenses must be renewed prior to their expiration date.

Moving Your Business from Another City

If you are relocating your business into Syracuse from another city, you must get the appropriate business license, if your business type is required to have one in our city. Business licenses from other cities are not valid within the City of Syracuse. If you have questions about licenses from other cities, please contact them directly.

Businesses on Public vs. Private Property

If you want to open a business on private commercial property, you need to talk with the Planning Department. They will check the zoning code to see if your business can operate at that location. (Example: A coffee shop inside a grocery store or retail outlet).

What happens if I don’t obtain a business license and I open my business?

If you opened your business and did not realize you need a business license, do not worry. All you need to do is apply for a business license with the City. All required paperwork should be submitted with the application. The requirements for your specific business can be found on the Apply for a Business License Page. The business license tax owed will be from the date the business opened to the current year.

If the City discovers a business is operating without a license, the city will send out an inspector to verify. The inspector will give the business owner information on how to apply and give a deadline when to submit the application. If the business does not apply for a business license within the time specified, the inspector can issue a misdemeanor citation to the business owner. The business owner would then go to court to be issued a penalty fee and/or jail time.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

Please contact the Central Permit Office


Onondaga County Legal Requirements

There are many parts of starting a business that the County manages. 

"Doing Business As"--DBA

The Onondaga County Clerk's Office is in charge of certificates of persons conducting business under an assumed business name. You probably hear them called a DBA (doing business as). The New York State Law requires that DBA certificates are filed by individuals or partners when they do business under a name that is not their legal name. Filing a DBA also protects the name from use by others in the county where it is filed. 

The law requires that DBA certificates contain specific language. You may want to talk an attorney to complete the appropriate forms, especially if it's your first filing, or if you're filing for a partnership. 

There are three basic DBA filings: 

  • Original 
  • Amendment 
  • Discontinuance 

These forms are available at the County Clerk’s Office for $1.00 each or you can download and print them.

Learn more about DBAs with the County Clerk's Office

Questions about DBAs? Call the County Clerk's Office.


Onondaga County Heath Department

The County's Health Department inspects food service establishments, motels, and other types of businesses to make sure they have safe, clean operating practices. There are inspection requirements before your business opens. Find out more by visiting the Community Environmental Health homepage.

Onondaga County Community Environmental Health

Onondaga County Plumbing Control Department

The Plumbing Control Department issues plumbing permits and performs plumbing installations. The inspections check that all plumbing work is completed as described by local laws and public health standards. 

Learn about Plumbing Control

State of New York Legal Requirements

Besides local requirements, business owners also need to consider the requirements of the State of New York. You are encouraged to explore the New York State website, to learn about licensing, taxes, and other regulations for businesses at the state level.

New York State Business Portal

On This Page

  • Figure out if I need a business license
  • Contact Onondaga County for DBA's, Health Permits, and Plumbing Permits
  • Check out the New York State Business Portal