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Ice Cream Shop Licenses and Permits Needed in Montana

Jim McCormickAuthor

When you’re opening an ice cream business, you’re going to need to get your licenses and permits in order before opening.

A staple of American culture, ice cream shops appear in almost every town across the country. The ice cream industry contributes $13.1 billion impact on the U.S. economy, and employ 28,800 direct jobs, according to a stat from IDFA’s Dairy Delivers.

In the coming years, Fortune Business Insights predicts that the global ice cream market will grow from $71.5 billion in 2021 to $97.9 billion in 2027, a 37% growth in demand for ice cream in six years. This sort of demand growth helps to explain increased opening of ice cream shops.

To open your ice cream shop you will need business license, a food facility health permit, a certificate of occupancy — they all have varying (and sometimes overlapping) requirements, so it’s important to know exactly what you need to get to legally open a food business in your particular city or county in Montana. 

Obtaining all of the required ice cream shop permits and licenses will take patience, organization, and a decent amount of paperwork on your part. Getting approval for each one will take time.

We’ll go through the most common licenses and permits needed in Montana, what they are and why you need them, how to get them, and how much they cost.


Opening a Restaurant Checklist

So many things go into opening a restaurant. Use this free PDF checklist to set your new restaurant up for success.


How to Open an Ice Cream Business in Montana

To ensure that the process of opening your ice cream is an efficient as possible we recommend you follow this sequence of steps.

  1. Create your ice cream shop business plan
  2. Find your location
  3. Determine your ice cream menu
  4. Order your ice cream equipment
  5. Determine your suppliers, cost structure and pricing
  6. Obtain all necessary licenses and permits to operate your ice cream shop, in local compliance

For the last step, every license and permit is unique and has its own application process. And each one takes varying amounts of time to secure, so in the process of opening your ice cream shop you’ll want to leave plenty of time to get the proper licenses and permits in place. 

To simplify the licensing process we have created this guide to cover all the ice cream shop licenses and permits you’ll need in Montana.

Licenses and Permits Required to Open an Ice Cream Shop in Montana

  1. Business License 
  2. Certificate of Occupancy 
  3. Food Handler’s License, also known as Food Service License 
  4. Seller’s Permit 
  5. Catering Business License 

1. Business License in Montana

What is it and why do you need it?

A business license is one of the first licenses you’ll need as you start laying the groundwork of your business. Also known as a business tax certificate, it helps your business stay compliant at tax season.

How to get a business license in Montana

In Montana, business licenses are controlled by the city or county you live in. If you operate a restaurant with multiple locations across cities and counties, it’s important to get a business license for each business in different jurisdictions. To get a business license in Montana, you’ll need:

  1. An EIN
  2. To choose what classification of business you’ll be (LLC? Sole proprietorship? Partnership?)
  3. A business name
  4. An address and phone number,
  5. A thorough restaurant business plan
  6. A COI for your business insurance policy

How much does a business license cost in Montana?

Montana business license costs vary depending the county, type and scope of the business. Business licenses in Montana need to be renewed and paid for regularly, so check with your jurisdiction about how often yours will need to be renewed.

License Name



Business License

Varies depending on county

Montana License Lookup

2. Certificate of Occupancy in Montana

What is it and why do you need it?

A certificate of occupancy is a document that shows your space is zoned for your type of business, as well as up to code, safe to use, and up to date on its checks and inspections. Not every county will require them for new businesses, and even then, only certain situations require them, including if you’re doing major building work or changing the use of a space from residential to business.

Always get in touch with your local jurisdiction to determine if your project warrants a CoO.

How to get a certificate of occupancy license?

The forms are online, but in order to get the certificate, your business location will need to go through fire inspections, plumbing inspections, electrical inspections, and building inspections. Check your local city or county’s building and safety department.

How much does a certificate of occupancy cost?

Different counties will charge different amounts, and they will also vary by type of business. Fee will vary depending on county.

License Name



Certificate of Occupancy

Fees will vary depending on county

Check your local city or county’s small business department

3. Food Handler’s License in Montana

What is it and why do you need it?

A food service license, also known as an employee health permit, allows restaurants, vendors, or any other type of food business to safely sell and serve food onsite. These licenses ensure that every employee knows how to do their part to keep your diners safe from foodborne illness. They’re often referred to as ServSafe, after the company that administers most food handler’s tests, or as a Montana Food Handler Card.

How to get a food handler’s license in Montana

Every employee who prepares or serves food in Montana must get their Food Handler’s license within 30 days of being hired — chefs, cooks, servers, baristas, and bartenders, to name a few. Bussers and general managers may not be required to do so. 

And if managers have already gotten their Food Protection Manager Certification, they’re also exempt from getting a Montana Food Handler card. Some jurisdictions have their own food safety training programs and standards, so they’re exempt from requiring employees to get a Montana Food Handler card.

To get their food handler’s card, employees must pass a test about food safety and preparation with a grade of at least 70% (or higher in some jurisdictions).

How much does a food service license cost in Montana?

Montana state law requires that the test and license not cost more than $15, in order to make sure anyone working in a restaurant can afford to get certified.

License Name



Food Handler's License

Up to $15 per employee

Montana Food Handler Training

4. Food Seller’s Permit in Montana

What is it and why do you need it?

Any business that plans to sell tangible goods that are subject to sales tax needs a seller’s permit. This permit allows them to charge sales tax.

How to get a seller’s permit?

You can register for a permit online through the SBA License and Permits portal.

How much does a food seller’s license cost?

There’s no fee to apply for a seller’s permit, but you may be asked to pay a security deposit to cover unpaid taxes if the business eventually closes.

License Name



Seller's Permit

$0 (but a security deposit may be requested

SBA Licenses and Permits

5. Catering License

What is the catering license businesses need in Montana?  

Montana catering business license costs vary depending the county, type and scope of the business but typically fall in the ranges listed below. In order to get your catering license in Montana, you should start with the link below.

License Name



Catering License

Range from $100 - $1000

Montana Secretary of State


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Timeline for Opening an Ice Cream Shop: Next Steps

Obtaining necessary ice cream business licenses is a startup cost you’ll need to invest in. Your permits are most likely going to cost well over $1,000. This cost should be factored into your startup numbers and metrics. Be sure to plan ahead as getting all of your licenses approved can take 2-3 months or longer.

All the details, from a POS system to the ice cream shop permits and licenses you need to have in place before doors open, are an exciting investment into your bakery. They’ll help get you well on your way to opening up your dream business. 

If you’re feeling ready, go ahead and begin your paperwork now. Find your local requirements for ice cream shop licenses and permits here

Keep in mind that these are just some of the ice cream shop permits and licenses you’ll have to obtain to open and operate in a legal capacity. Laws and regulations tied to each license will vary based on your location.

Be sure to research the different permits and licenses you’ll need for your ice cream shop at all levels — including city, state, and federal. The process might seem overwhelming and time consuming, but with all your Ts crossed and your Is dotted, you’ll be ready to start selling delicious baked goods before you know it.

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