Figuring Out Which Licenses Apply to Your Business

It is not surprising that a restaurant selling alcohol needs a liquor license or that a construction company needs a contractor’s license before it can start building houses or office buildings. But many business owners in different industries often fail to realize they need to have a particular license before they can legally open for business. Licensing is one of those frightening areas of legal compliance often known as “I don’t know what I don’t know.”  Fortunately, with a little research, attention to detail, and a commitment to compliance, business owners can operate successfully and profitably without running afoul of applicable licensing requirements.

One way to think of licensing requirements is from top to bottom.  At the top, you have certain business activities that require licensing with the federal government, like air travel, firearms, and tobacco sales.  The next level is the state licensing. In Virginia, the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) requires licenses for home improvement contractors, plumbers, hair stylists, law firms, accounting firms, professional wrestlers, and daycare centers, just to name a few.  At the bottom of licensing regulation is the county/city level.  Here are links to the local business license requirements of several local jurisdictions in the Richmond area:

  1. City of Richmond
  2. Henrico County
  3. Chesterfield County
  4. Hanover County
  5. Powhatan County

In addition to licenses that regulate business activities, other government requirements affect where a business can operate.  These are typically referred to as zoning ordinances.  Home-based businesses may also face restrictions and limitations of various types. Condominium associations, homeowners’ associations, and apartment communities also can limit the types of business activities conducted within their boundaries.  

When planning your startup schedule, remember to factor in the licensing process.  Penalties for operating without a license can vary from civil fines and penalties to criminal charges. Every new business is unique, and it is up to the owner make sure he or she is in compliance with each level of regulation applicable to the business. 

Are you on the verge of starting or acquiring a small business in Virginia?  Reach out anytime if we can be of service.  You can schedule an appointment here.

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