The Retail Checklist covers key items that you may consider when starting your business. Get a head start on the planning process by knowing upfront what to expect so you don't run into unexpected surprises that may delay your grand opening.
- Find a Location
After you've developed your business plan, you'll want to start looking for great locations for your new business. Make sure the property you’re interested in has the right zoning for a garment manufacturing business by looking on ZIMAS. Also look to see if there are any overlay zones or other special planning zones - these may suggest additional restrictions above and beyond the zoning requirements.
Don’t know where to begin looking for a potential location? Try LocateLA which can help you find the best commercial buildings for rent and offers robust economic and demographic data to help you make an informed decision.
If the location you are considering was a retail store before, it will be much faster to get up and running - assuming the previous owner was legally operating with the right permits. You can check by reviewing the building’s Certificate of Occupancy. Otherwise, a Change of Use permit may be required from the Department of Building and Safety.
Once you know the zoning for the property you’re interested in, check to see if your store is allowed within the property’s zoning category.
Identify the parking requirements for your business type and ask the landlord if the lease includes enough parking spaces to meet those requirements.
If your project does not meet the zoning requirements – for instance, if there is not enough parking or if the business is not allowed for the zoning category, you will need to apply for a land use permit (entitlement) from the Planning Department. The approval process for an entitlement requires a public hearing and may take several months. The cost of this process varies but may be several thousand dollars. Be sure to visit the City’s Development Services Center for more information and assess whether this is still the right location for you.
Ask the landlord whether the unit meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements so you are aware of and can negotiate and/or budget for any needed renovations.
It’s always a good idea to meet with your local Council Office, Neighborhood Council and community police station - getting their support and insights can be important for a smooth launch. You can find their contact information using the City's Neighborhood Info Tool.
Review your lease closely before signing it. Keep in mind that it may take several months to obtain the permits you need to start running your business and bring in paying customers.
Research the different elements of a commercial - they're very different from residential leases. You may also consider getting a lawyer to help you review and negotiate your lease.
Visit one of the City’s Development Services Centers or call (213) 482-7077 to connect with city staff who can help you review the zoning and physical requirements of your property location.
- Register your Business
Before you open your doors, you will need to register your business, your business name and business entity. Check out the online start-up guide to get a tailored guide on how to formally register your business with the City, County, State and Federal Government and get set up to pay business, sales and payroll taxes.
- Get your Building Ready to Go
If the business that was at your location before was not a retail store (for instance, if the prior business was a restaurant or office), then you will need to file for a change of use permit. A change of use permit ensures that your property meets the city requirements for your business type. For instance, a retail store may require more parking spaces than an office does, and you would need to demonstrate that you could provide the additional required parking spaces to obtain the change of use permit.
Building permits are required for electrical, plumbing and structural changes to a building, including additions, alterations, construction and demolition. To obtain a building permit, you will need to file building plans, have them approved and schedule an inspection to verify the work after it has been completed. Depending on the scale of the project, there are different “plan check” options for the Department of Building and Safety to review your building plans – ranging from an online application and automatic approval for simple projects to an extended review of architectural and structural drawings for large, complex projects.
When you apply for your building permits, the Department of Building and Safety will provide you with a “clearance summary worksheet” that lets you know what additional approvals are required. This may include the Los Angeles Fire Department, the County Department of Health and other Departments as applicable.
If you’ve received a land use or building permit from the City, make sure to follow up with the Development Services Center after any work is completed and schedule an inspection to make sure the work meets the required standards.
You may need to schedule a few inspections if there are various phases of work that you are completing. Typically, you need to have an inspection before you "conceal and cover" any work that has been done. For your convenience, inspections can be scheduled online on the LADBS website.
- Selling Specific Types of Goods
Depending on the goods or products that you plan to sell, there may be additional items that you need to look out for. While this is not a comprehensive list, a few examples include:
If you plan to sell or serve alcohol, you will need to work with the City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning to obtain a Conditional Use Permit, in addition to the State of California Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control.
If you plan to sell items online, learn about the sales tax regulations that apply to internet sales.
- Bring on Staff
Review the Hiring Section for information on additional employment guidelines, including Minimum Wage and Workers' Compensation requirements.
- Additional Resources
If you prefer a personal touch to getting your business of the ground, check out the Resources Section of the Business Portal. You can find organizations that might be helpful to you along the way, or visit one of the City's nine BusinessSource Centers for dedicated, free technical assistance.