Surprising Businesses That Require a License

Are you considering opening a business? You might be surprised to find out that businesses of all virtually all types need a license or permit from their local government to operate.

Jason Nazar, founder of, a website that allows you to figure out what licensing you need and provides the forms to apply for them, said the licensing process can be overwhelming.

"One main issue new business owners face, depending on the type of company they’re starting, can be there numerous different documents they need to file with various municipal organizations," Nazar said.

Here is his list of surprising business license requirements:

  • In New York state and some counties in Florida, including Broward County (Fort Lauderdale), businesses selling kosher or halal products must have a special license.
  • Pet stores often need special licenses to sell animals. Certain cities also require rare animal licenses for businesses selling animals such as reptiles, parrots and monkeys.
  • Many cities, including Los Angeles, require a license to operate an arcade or have video games.
  • Los Angeles County requires a permit to sell horsemeat.
  • New York and Chicago specially license frozen desserts and several cities and counties in the Bay Area require confectionary licenses for selling candy.
  • Many people assume a home business needs no special license, but some cities, including San Diego, Pasadena, Calif., El Paso, Texas and Chicago require home occupation permits.
  • Dry cleaners are required to have a number of licenses, including licenses and permits for hazardous waste disposal due to the chemicals required to dry clean. A dry cleaner in San Francisco can easily need upward of 12 licenses and permits.
  • Farmers' markets often need special licenses to operate, as do individual food vendors.
  • Produce sellers usually require special food licenses.
  • Los Angeles County requires licenses for pony rides, carnivals and outdoor games.
  • Many cities, including Austin, Texas, Dallas and San Diego require licenses for yard sales and retail close-out sales that extend outside.
  • Chicago requires a special license for IT and electronics repair.
  • Chicago also licenses home repair, including handymen.
  • Chicago also requires licenses for animal care facilities, such as kennels and doggie day cares.
  • Chicago also licenses secondhand and antique shops as well as any kids' amusement businesses such as a karate studio or gym (these are not usually specially licensed elsewhere).
  • Pennsylvania and Florida require special licenses to sell malt liquor — separate from general liquor licenses.
  • Although most places do not require special licenses for residential rentals, San Diego and Broward County, Fla., do.
  • Also, while Chicago, Washington, D.C., and the state of California do not require special licenses for medical offices, Florida requires two licenses to have a doctor's office.
  • Car rental businesses sometimes need special city or county licenses.
  • In some cases, Florida, California and Illinois require licenses for talent and modeling agents and agencies.
  • While Los Angeles County does not require a license for acupuncturists or other alternative medicine practitioners, it requires a license for acupressurists.

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