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New Businesses

  • You may need several permits for your new business.

What Is It?

A new business is a new restaurant, shop, or office in a commercial building, and it may require several different kinds of permits. If you're opening a home business, different rules apply.

What Permits Do You Need?

You may need one or more of the permits below to open a business. You may also need a business license.

Change of use. You need a construction permit to establish use if your new business is different than the former business that was in the space — for example, you want to open a retail store in a space that was previously an office. You need a permit to open your new business even if you are not planning to remodel the space. Visit our microfilm library for records of previous uses, permits, and plans.

Construction. You may only need a construction subject-to-field-inspection permit if you will be remodeling your space but not changing its use — for example, you want to open a restaurant in a space that last held a restaurant. We try to issue these permits on the day you apply.

If you don’t qualify for a subject-to-field-inspection construction permit, you will need a construction addition / alteration permit to remodel a space.

In addition to construction permits, you may need:

Research the Code

Below are a few common rules that apply to your new business. Most often, we consider your:

Land use zone and use. Make sure we allow your business’ use (such as a bar or nail salon) in your building’s land use zone. If we do not allow your use, your project may not be feasible or you may need to get a land use administrative conditional use permit.

If you are changing the use of the space, we may require more parking, review by the City’s landmark or special district boards, or environmental review.

Occupancy. If you expect to change the use of your space we may require you to make some safety and strength improvements to the building, such as additional exits, sprinklers, and strengthening for earthquakes. An example of a change of use would be opening a day care in an space that was previously an office.

Accessibility. If you are remodeling the space or changing its use, our building code may require that you make your business more accessible to people with disabilities. You may need to remodel restrooms and building entrances, for example.

These are just a few examples of the rules that you may need to follow. Please consult a professional or visit the Applicant Services Center for coaching if you have questions. If you're opening a restaurant, the Restaurant Success website is a helpful one-stop resource.

Should You Hire a Professional?

If you need help understanding our land use and building codes and determining which requirements apply, hire an architect or other building professional. We require a professional to stamp drawings to indicate they were created by a licensed architect or engineer when:

  • Your work is structural and costs over $75,000
  • Your work is not structural and costs over $75,000, excluding electrical and mechanical work, fixtures, equipment, and finishes
  • Your work is structural and costs less than $75,000, if your building is framed with a material other than wood studs and rafters

If we do not require a professional stamp, you may prepare the drawings yourself. However, we recommend you hire a professional to prepare your drawings. A professional makes sure your project meets building and land use code requirements, which can speed up our review of your plans and get you a permit more quickly. Professional stamp requirements are described in the Seattle Building Code (SBC).

 

What Do You Want To Do?


Still Need Help?


 Ask Us

  • Call us at (206) 684-8850
     
  • Visit the Applicant Services Center
    700 5th Avenue, 20th floor
    M, W, F: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    T, Th: 10:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    (arrive before 2:00 p.m. for walk-in service)

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