Licensing and Permitting

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Licenses & Permits

Every business operating in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, regardless of the industry-type and location, should do the following:


Research & Register Business Name

Before you spend time & money, you should make sure that the business name you propose to operate under is not already in use in the county (or counties) that you propose to conduct business. This is particularly true if you will be operating under an assumed business name (or fictitious name, trade name, or DBA name, short for “doing business as”). In Mecklenburg County you can research your business name in person at the Register of Deeds Office located at 720 East Fourth Street, Charlotte NC 28202; 704-336-2443. In addition, pursuant to North Carolina General Statutes (G.S. 66-68), an Assumed Name Certificate must be filed in the register of deeds office of each county in which a business operating under an assumed name is doing business. Before recording the assumed name with the Register of Deeds, business owners should perform a search to ensure the name is not already in use.

Depending on the legal formation of your business, you may also be required to register your business with the North Carolina Secretary of State.

Learn more about steps to registering your business at SBA.gov.

Business License

IMPORTANT NOTICE: All businesses must comply with any and all other laws and regulations, including but not limited to zoning, fire, building standards, environmental health and more. BEFORE you start your business, sign a lease, buy property or purchase a sign for your business, make sure you do your research!

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Business License

The Privilege License Tax has been repealed in North Carolina, effective July 1, 2015.  There is no longer a requirement to obtain a business license or to pay this tax.  Prior year taxes were not repealed and remain payable.   Please contact Charlotte Mecklenburg 311 Center or if outside Mecklenburg County at (704) 336-7600 if you have any questions about this important tax change. 

Contact Zoning

Zoning approval is required to operate a business in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The Charlotte Zoning Department can be reached at 704-336-3569 or in person at the Hal Marshall Building located at 700 North Tryon Street, Charlotte NC.

In addition to contacting Zoning, it can also be helpful to talk to the Commercial Technical Assistance Center (CTAC) at 704-336-3829 – option 4 to discuss the type of business you plan to operate from a specific location and to learn what, if anything, you will be required to do to the facility before you can begin operations. Be prepared to discuss the details of your project and have available, among other things, your property address, how long the building has been vacant, what the facility was most recently used for and what you plan to do at the facility.


Request Fire Prevention Inspection

All businesses operating from commercial property in the Charlotte city limits must receive and pass a fire prevention inspection. Contact the Charlotte Fire Prevention Bureau at 704-336-2101 to schedule an inspection, and download a “self-inspection checklist” to help you begin to understand the types of fire safety items the inspection will cover. Businesses operating in Mecklenburg County but outside of the Charlotte city limits should contact the Mecklenburg County Fire Marshal.


Register Your Alarm System

If you have an electronic burglar alarm system installed within the Charlotte city limits or the unincorporated areas of Mecklenburg County, it must be registered with the police department. Businesses are also encouraged to make every effort to develop relationships with their community police officers and request security surveys (also known as CPTED).


Register Business Personal Property

North Carolina law requires business and professional personal property to be listed with the county assessor.


Get Environmental Health Permits

Businesses involved in activities that are regulated by North Carolina Environmental Health Services must obtain special health occupational permits from Mecklenburg County. These business types include but are not limited to restaurants, mobile food units, caterers, child care facilities, tattooing, motels and other lodgings, and more.


Obtain Sign Permit

Save your business time and money! Call 311 BEFORE you purchase, install or make modifications to your business sign to make sure that you are in compliance with the sign ordinance.

SAMPLE Sign Permit Application (required in triplicate)
Sign Permit Checklist
Business Sign Ordinance FAQs
Prohibited Signs

A permit is required for all signs in Charlotte. Sign permits are issued by the Zoning Code Enforcement office located at the Hal Marshall Building, 700 N. Tryon Street. Before applying for a sign permit you should confirm that your business location meets all zoning and land use requirements. To learn more about sign permits and Charlotte’s Zoning Ordinance visit the Zoning Code Enforcement website or contact 311.

Other Licenses and Permits

In addition to the above, there may be additional offices that businesses should contact based upon their specific location and/or industry type. Many of these require special permits and approvals before you can legally operate your business. Although the below list is not intended to be all-inclusive, it will help you get started:

Hosting Special Events, Parades & Festivals

You must register and submit an application/fees in order to hold special events, parades, and festivals in Mecklenburg County.

Vendor Requirements

Vending Uptown Charlotte

There are two ways to sell items Uptown in the Congested Business District.

  1. Vendors can apply for the Tryon Street Mall Program. The Tryon Street Mall program assigns permits to vendors for specific spaces for a one year period. Contact Charlotte Center City Partners at 704-332-2227 for more information. Also, read the City of Charlotte Code of Ordinances describing this program.
  2. Vendors can apply directly with an event/festival/market sponsor to sell items on closed streets as a part of an approved special event.

Otherwise, nothing can be sold in the public right of way (streets and sidewalks) in Uptown. Items can be sold on private property with the proper permits.

For the required permits, apply in person at the Hal Marshall Service Center, 700 N. Tryon Street. The Zoning Counter is located on the main floor. For more information review Section 12.534 of the City of Charlotte Zoning Ordinance.

Vending Outside of Uptown Charlotte

To sell items in the public right of way (streets and sidewalks) in the City of Charlotte, excluding Uptown, vendors can obtain a Peddler’s License.

Vending or “peddling” activity in the City of Charlotte is described as a transaction where food or merchandise is exchanged between a seller (on foot or by vehicle) and a buyer who pays a retail price for the goods. This activity is governed by the City of Charlotte Peddling Ordinance. (Part II, Chapter 6, Article VIII of the Code of Ordinances).

Apply for this permit in person at the Hal Marshall Service Center, 700 N. Tryon Street. The Zoning Counter is located on the main floor.

Operating a Pushcart or Mobile Food Unit (Food Truck)

A permit is required to operate a Mobile Food Unit or a Pushcart in Mecklenburg County. Learn more about the Mobile Food Unit and Pushcart Regulations.

Check out the Pushcart and Mobile Food Unit Frequently Asked Questions

Manufacturing, Selling, or Serving Food

Restaurants and Other Food Services
The Mecklenburg County Environmental Health department (704-336-5100) has created a website to help owners of food service facilities understand what is required to obtain the proper permits and to prepare and serve safe food.

Temporary Food Service Event
Food service operators at festivals and special events must obtain a permit from the local health department to prepare and sell food to the public. Mecklenburg County Health Department: 704-336-5100

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Grease Free Program
Learn more about food service grease trap requirements and how to comply, and view other guidelines of design, installation and construction of food establishments in North Carolina.

Mecklenburg County Source Separation Recycling Program
Businesses that contract for disposal of waste must separate cardboard, office paper and other materials for recycling and must provide for the collection of such materials. To help you learn more, Mecklenburg County provides “fact sheets” for certain industry types.

Operating a Food Establishment – Guidelines for Design, Installation and Construction of Food Establishments in NC
The Char-Meck Code Enforcement Department has developed resources to provide guidance and assistance in complying with North Carolina requirements and nationally recognized food safety standards.

 

Serving/Selling Alcohol

Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABC)
Businesses manufacturing, distributing, serving and/or selling alcoholic beverages of any and all kinds are required to obtain a ABC permit. Federal permits may also be required.

Mecklenburg County Beer & Wine License
A special beer and wine privilege license tax is required in Mecklenburg County.

Mecklenburg County WipeOutWaste Recycling Program
Businesses with certain types of ABC permits are required to separate and recycle beverage containers.

Operating a Business from Home

To operate a home-based business, you must obtain a Zoning Customary Home Occupation Permit. Apply in person for the permit at the Hal Marshall Service Center, 700 N. Tryon Street. The Zoning Counter is located on the main floor.  Learn about local requirements for operating a business from your home.


Operating a Child Care Business

Child care in Mecklenburg County is regulated by both:

  1. Mecklenburg County Health Department, and
  2. NC Division of Child Development
    In addition, Mecklenburg County has created a brochure setting forth the steps that need to be taken to open a daycare center.

Operating a Vehicle for Hire

Established in May 2000, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Passenger Vehicles for Hire (PVH) Office administers and enforces the PVH Ordinance. The PVH ordinance regulates the licensing, inspection, and operation of all passenger vehicles for hire that operate within Charlotte ‘s corporate city limits. Applicable vehicles include all taxicabs, limousines, shuttle vans, special needs, transportation vehicles, contract vehicles, and non-metered passenger vehicles for hire. Learn more about what licenses are required.

The Passenger Vehicles for Hire Office conducts all business BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. Contact their office for additional information or to schedule an appointment at 704-432-6802.


Hotel, Motel, Bed & Breakfast or Similar Lodging

Hotels, motels and similar lodging places are subject to, among other things, environmental health rules and waste reduction & recycling guidelines.

Tattooing

Contact Mecklenburg County Environmental Health Services to learn about specific requirements for tattoo parlors and visit North Carolina Environmental Health Services for more information.

Garbage and Recycling

Mecklenburg County Source Separation Recycling Program
Businesses that contract for disposal of 16 cubic yards or more of waste per week must separate cardboard, office paper and other materials for recycling and must provide for the collection of such materials.

Recycling – Mecklenburg County

Mecklenburg County requires, among other things, mandatory source separation for corrugated cardboard and office paper. In addition, separation and recycling of beverage containers is required for certain types of businesses. The County has developed a Business Resource Guide to help you clarify what recycling measures your business should implement.

Environmental Protection

Environmental regulations can impact all types of businesses, such as: gas stations, waste haulers, manufacturing firms, painters and landscapers.  As a business owner, it’s important to know if your business must comply with certain environmental regulations and permitting requirements.

To learn more, contact:

Land Use and Environmental Services Agency in the Hal Marshall Building at 700 North Tryon St. or by calling 704-336-7600.

Storm Water Services for water-pollution prevention for businesses such as carpet cleaners, landscapers, pressure washers, painting, vehicle and equipment repair, vehicle detailers and more. Refer to specific business “fact sheets” for more information.