Charlotte-Mecklenburg Business License & Permits
Every business operating in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, regardless of the industry-type and location, should do the following:
Before you spend time & money on your business privilege license, 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.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: In addition to a business license, all businesses must also 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 Privilege Business License
Anyone doing business in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, whether home-based or at another location; whether located inside the City of Charlotte or outside the City but conducting business within the City; whether it is a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation; full-time or part-time; regardless of size, unless the business is exempted by law, is required to have a privilege business license to lawfully operate their business. Learn more about general business tax issues.
For other towns in Mecklenburg County, contact your local town hall to learn about additional requirements.
Zoning approval is required to operate a business in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and to obtain a Charlotte-Mecklenburg business license. Businesses that are exempt from local business license requirements by state or federal law must still contact Zoning to receive approval to operate their business. 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.
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.
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).
North Carolina law requires business and professional personal property to be listed with the county assessor.
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.
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
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 theZoning Code Enforcement website or contact 311.
Other things to consider
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:
Businesses operating from a residence are subject to special zoning regulations. Learn about local requirements for operating a business from your home.
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 Foodservice 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 North Carolina
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.
Businesses operating a pushcart or mobile food unit are required to have a Mobile Food Unit/Pushcart permit.
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.
Businesses operating vehicles for hire, such as taxi’s, limousines, bus & special transportation services, and others, must receive an annual Company Operating Certificate.
Public swimming pools, such as those at sports & other recreation facilities and hotels/motels, are regulated by the Mecklenburg County Health Department. The County has created a website to help owners of public pools understand the requirements to operate a pool.
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 regulations can impact businesses of many kinds, including, among others, everything from gas stations – to waste haulers – to manufacturing firms – to something as simple as painters and landscapers. As a business owner, it’s important for you to know if your business is required to comply with 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.