Food and Beverage Licenses and Permits: What You Need to Know

Before starting a restaurant or food truck, it's essential to know the rules. We're sharing all about food and beverage licenses and permits.
Dooley Noted, Business Lawyer, Estate planning, Restaurant Lawyer, Insurance Dispute attorney, Alternative Dispute Resolutions

Staff Writer

Staff Writer, @DooleyNotedLaw

Recommended for you

How to Apply for a 7(a) Business Loan

How to Apply for a 7(a) Business Loan

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government-funded program that provides many options for funding for small businesses. Funding options include loans, investment capital, disaster assistance, bonds, and grants. This article discusses what is a 7(a)...

If you are starting, running, or expanding a food business in Texas, you must know the required licenses and permits. This blog post will provide an overview of the most common food and beverage licenses and permits for restaurants, bars, and food trucks. Additionally, we will provide information on how to get a business license and what it includes. Whether you are just starting or looking to expand your current business, read this blog post.

What Food and Beverage Licenses and Permits Do I Need?

There are general licenses that all food businesses need. However, there are also specific licenses for certain types of companies. For example, food trucks need different permits than restaurants.

EIN

First, any food and beverage business should apply for an Employer’s Identification Number (EIN). You can do this online at www.irs.org. The EIN gives your business legal standing with the government. Additionally, it allows you to withhold federal income tax from your employees’ paychecks. It is vital to get an EIN if you are starting your business. LegalZing can help you apply for one and make the process easy.

Fictitious Business Name (DBA)

Every restaurant, bar, or food truck needs a name to operate its business. You might have heard of a DBA, which stands for “doing business as”. This is an important step if you have an entity set up with the state, like an LLC, that differs from the actual name of the restaurant, bar or food truck. Additionally, a person might be running a business as a sole proprietor. In this case, you would certainly need to establish a fictitious business name.

You will need to register your fictitious name with the government to open a bank account or have legal standing as a business in court. The process is easy and inexpensive. If you own a food truck and plan to operate in two or more counties, you’ll need to register in each county. 

Business License

A business license is a document that allows you to operate your business in a specific city or state. The government will recognize your business as legitimate and track it for tax purposes. Food and beverage businesses need specific licenses to serve the public. The type of license you need depends on what kind of food service you are doing. For example, you will need a mobile permit if you have a food truck. You will need a retail food establishment permit if you have a physical restaurant. Your business will undergo an initial inspection to make sure it meets the requirements before you receive the permit.

Sign Permits

Each municipality in Texas has specific regulations about signs. For example, the city might have specifications regarding the size, lighting, location, construction, and other criteria. Additionally, fees for sign permits vary by city. Before putting up any sign for your business, you should research what the local government requires.

Parking Permits

You will need to check with your local county clerk about the parking permits they require for food trucks. Different areas may have different rules for food trucks. Some streets may be completely off-limits, while others may only allow trucks to operate at certain times or on certain days. A parking permit is essential so you can avoid getting a ticket. The permit will show when and where you can park your truck and whether or not you can leave it there overnight.

Driver’s License for Food Truck

Another step for food truck owners is to ensure they have a valid driver’s license. If your truck weighs more than a certain amount in some states, you will need a commercial driver’s license. However, in most cases, if you have a standard driver’s license, you will be able to operate your food truck.

Texas Health Permits

To operate a food or beverage business in the State of Texas, you must obtain a health permit. The government bases the cost of the permit on your estimated annual sales. If your small business has $50,000 or less in gross sales, the health permit will cost $258. If your company has between $50,000 and $149,999 in gross sales, the health permit will cost $515. However, if your annual sales are more than $150,000, the health permit will cost $773. For more information on health permits, visit dshs.texas.gov.

To sell food, the health department needs to inspect your business. They will test your equipment to ensure the food is at the correct temperature to stop bacteria from growing. Additionally, you will need to have periodic inspections to meet all the standards.

The standards your business must meet include:

  • Proper sanitary temperatures and guidelines for dishwashing
  • The correct cooling and heating temperatures
  • Secure windows and doors on food trucks
  • Steady water supply for sanitizing and washing hands

Certificate of Occupancy

You will need to get a Certificate of Occupancy for your physical restaurant or bar. You can find more information about this process on the website of the Public Works & Engineering Department.

Getting a Certificate of Occupancy is required for any business that:

  • Moved to a new building or space
  • Remodeled or expanded facilities
  • Changed ownership 
  • Has a new business name 
  • Changed location

Food Handler’s Permit

You will need to complete food handler training and a food safety course to work with food. After completing this training, you will receive a food handler’s permit. In Texas, restaurants and bars must have a certified food manager responsible for food safety. Anyone who handles or serves food must obtain a Food Handler Card.

Fire Certificates

If you have cooking equipment and gas lines on your food truck, the health department and fire department will need to inspect it in some counties. Check the county you will be selling food in to see their specific requirements.

What are the Requirements to Serve Alcohol?

If you’re planning to serve alcohol, you need a liquor or beer and wine license from the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC). The cost of a liquor license varies depending on the type of license, location, business size, and other factors. It’s much easier to get a license in Texas than in many other states. However, the cost is as much as $400,000 for a full liquor license. But, it’s possible to get a basic, on-premises license for $3000.

Business owners can usually get their licenses in 45 to 60 days. To qualify for an alcohol license, you must not have:

  1. Any felony convictions within the past five years
  2. Moral turpitude violations within the last six months
  3. Violations of state liquor laws within the past two years

Be sure to obtain all other permits before applying for a TABC license. Once you have all those in order, you’re ready to apply for your license.

When Should I Hire a Business Lawyer for Food and Beverage Licenses and Permits?

Starting a food or beverage business can be much work. You need to get licenses and permits, and you need to make sure you follow all the small business laws. If you don’t, you could get in trouble. If you have questions about the permits and licenses, reach out to a Business lawyer in Texas.

Having a lawyer can help ensure that you are following all the regulations for your specific business. Plus, they can help you apply for licenses and develop a plan in case you run into any trouble. We know this sounds like a lot. However, your company must get started on the right foot.

Why Hire a Business Lawyer in Texas

At Dooley Noted Law, we are passionate about the food and beverage industry. Additionally, we understand the ins and outs of the regulations and laws that apply to small businesses in Texas. Our team can help you with everything from permits and licenses to contracts. We can help you get all the licenses and permits you need to start a restaurant, food truck, coffee shop, or other business.

If you haven’t officially started your business yet, Dooley Noted can help you get started. We offer free consultations to help answer any questions about getting started in the food and beverage industry. Schedule your consultation today!

The contents of this post, and the posting and viewing of the information on this post, should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.

Recommended for you

Uninsured in an Accident: Everything You Need to Know

If you are involved in a collision, and the other driver is uninsured in an accident, what do you do? A situation like this is often confusing and frustrating, especially if you are unfamiliar with the law. This blog post will discuss everything you need to know about...