New Businesses

See also: Home Businesses, Illegal BusinessProperty & Building Use

What Is It?

A black man with thought bubbles with a business and a shopping cart with money symbols.A new business is a commercial organization, such as a new restaurant, shop, or office, located in a building or space that it didn't previously occupy. A new business may require several different kinds of permits. If you're opening a home business, different rules apply.

What Permits Do You Need?

You may need one or more of the permits below to open a business. You may also need a business license.

Change of use. You need a construction permit to establish use if your new business is a different type of business than the former business — for example, if Jack’s Café is moving into what used to be Jill’s Diner, that wouldn’t inherently need any permit. You may need a permit to open your new business even if you are not planning to remodel the space. 

Construction. You may only need a construction subject-to-field-inspection permit if you will be remodeling your space but not changing its use — for example, you want to open a restaurant in a space that last held a restaurant. 

If you don’t qualify for a subject-to-field-inspection construction permit, you will need a construction addition / alteration permit to remodel a space.

In addition to construction permits, you may need:

Research the Code

Below are a few common rules that apply to your new business. Most often, we consider your:

Land use zone and use. Make sure we allow your business’ use (such as a bar or nail salon) in your building’s land use zone. If we do not allow your use, your project may not be feasible or you may need to get a land use administrative conditional use permit.

If you are changing the use of the space, we may require more parking, review by the City’s landmark or special district boards, or environmental review.

Occupancy. If you expect to change the use of your space we may require you to make some safety and strength improvements to the building, such as additional exits, sprinklers, and strengthening for earthquakes. An example of a change of occupancy would be opening a day care in an space that was previously an office.

Accessibility. If you are remodeling the space or changing its use, our building code may require that you make your business more accessible to people with disabilities. You may need to remodel restrooms and building entrances, for example.

These are just a few examples of the rules that you may need to follow. Please consult a professional or contact the Applicant Services Center for coaching if you have questions. If you're opening a restaurant, the Office of Economic Development Restaurants website is a helpful one-stop resource.

Should You Hire a Professional?

If you need help understanding our land use and building codes and determining which requirements apply, hire an architect or other building professional. We require a professional to stamp drawings to indicate they were created by a licensed architect or engineer when:

  • Your work is structural and the building is not built with conventional wood framing
  • Your work is structural, the building is built with conventional wood framing, and costs more than $75,000
  • Your work is not structural and costs more than $75,000, excluding electrical and mechanical work, fixtures, equipment, and finishes

If we do not require a professional stamp, anyone with drafting skills may prepare the drawings. However, we recommend you hire a professional to prepare your drawings. A professional makes sure your project meets building and land use code requirements, which can speed up our review of your plans and get you a permit more quickly. Professional stamp requirements are described in the Seattle Building Code, section 106.5.2.


Construction and Inspections

Nathan Torgelson, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, WA, 98124-4019
Phone: (206) 684-8600
Phone Alt: Violation Complaint Line: (206) 615-0808
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SDCI issues land use, construction, and trade permits, conducts construction and housing-related inspections, ensures compliance with our codes, and regulates rental rules. SDCI is committed to an antiracist workplace and to addressing racism through our work in the community.