10 Permits and Licences Needed To Open A Coffee Shop

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Katherine BoyarskyAuthor

Coffee is one of life’s great gifts, and we salute coffee shop owners for their tireless work in providing our daily cup of energy. 

If you’re thinking of opening up a coffee shop, you probably imagine a cosy spot for friends to gather over a cuppa, complete with a top-of-the-line espresso machine and a gorgeous glass display case full of delicious baked goods. 

However, when you get down to it, there are a ton of details that go along with opening and running a successful coffee shop. Not least among them are a good marketing plan, a business plan, and a fabulous website.  

But there’s one major hurdle that you’ll want to clear before you start drafting a menu and promoting your space on social media: coffee shop licences and permits. 

Every licence and permit is unique and has its own application. And each one takes varying amounts of time to secure, so you’ll want to leave plenty of time to get the proper licences and permits in place. While it’s a lot of information, don’t need to sweat it. We created this guide to cover all the coffee shop licences and permits you’ll need. 


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What Do You Need to Open a Coffee Shop?

1. Business Licence

Like all other businesses, coffee shops need a business licence to operate in Ireland. Either the city or county you live in will dictate how to apply for a business licence and what the requirements are to remain in compliance with local zoning ordinances. 

How to Get a Business Licence

Check out your local city or county’s zoning office to find the business licence application. If you Google “Your Local Town/City + Business Licence Application” you should be able to find it along with any requirements

How Much Does a Business Licence Cost?

Like many of the following licences and permits in this guide, you’ll find that fees vary based on location. To determine the specific cost for your business license, you should contact the local authority or council in the area where you plan to operate your business.

2. Registering a Business Name for your Coffee Shop 

To register a business name for your coffee shop in Ireland, the process will depend on the legal structure of your business. 

How to Register a Business Name 

Firstly, make sure your chosen name is not already in use by conducting a search on the Companies Registration Office (CRO) website (www.cro.ie). From the same website, you will need to download and complete form RBN1 (Business Name Registration Form), submitting to the CRO either by post or in person.

How Much Does it Cost to Register a Business Name?

Currently, the standard fee for online registration is €20, while the fee for postal applications is €40. This fee may change over time, so it's advisable to check the latest fee information on the CRO website.

3. Retail Food Service Licence

As a coffee shop, you’ll sell coffee and food products directly to the end buyer, which in this case, is the consumer. This means you’ll likely need a retail food service licence as opposed to a wholesale food service licence. 

How to Get a Retail Food Service Licence

To obtain a retail food service license, you will need to contact your local Health Service Executive (HSE) Environmental Health Officer or the relevant local authority responsible for food safety. They will provide you with the necessary information, application forms, and guidelines for obtaining the license. They may conduct inspections of your premises to ensure compliance with food safety regulations.

How Much Does a Retail Food Service Licence Cost? 

The cost of a retail food service licence for a coffee shop in Ireland can vary depending on factors such as location, size of the establishment, and the local authority responsible for issuing the licence. The licence fee structure can also change over time, so it's important to check with your local Health HSE Environmental Health Officer or the relevant local authority to obtain the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the cost of the licence. 

4. Value Added Tax (VAT) Registration  

If your coffee shop’s annual taxable turnover exceeds the current VAT threshold, you will need to register for VAT with the Revenue Commissioners.  

How to Register for VAT 

To register for VAT, you will need to complete and submit the appropriate VAT registration form on the Revenue Commissioners website (www.revenue.ie). The Revenue Commissioners will review your application and, if approved, will issue you a VAT registration number. They may also request additional information or documents during the process.

How Much Does it Cost to Register for VAT?

Good news: registering for VAT is generally free of charge. There is no specific fee for VAT registration with the Revenue Commissioners. However, once registered for VAT, you will be required to charge VAT on applicable goods and services sold to customers. The VAT rates in Ireland can vary depending on the type of goods or services provided. . Failure to do so could result in the Revenue Commissioners revoking your registration.

Additionally, after registering for VAT, you will be required to submit regular VAT returns to the Revenue Commissioners. Depending on the results of these returns, you may be required to make VAT payments or you may be eligible for VAT refunds.

5. Sign Permit 

Once you’ve got the location established, you’ll need a sign to point customers the right way — which is through the entrance of your coffee shop! However, before you start plastering the neighbourhood with flashing signs to show the way, you’ll need to get a sign permit approved by your local authorities. Every city has its own requirements when it comes to regulating the sign’s size, location, lighting, and visibility. 

How to Get a Sign Permit

Contact your local planning authority or local council to inquire about specific sign permits and regulations. Oftentimes, larger cities with more businesses have more restrictions and requirements in place for sign permits. 

How Much Does a Sign Permit Cost? 

Sign permit fees vary based on the sign’s size and your location. To determine the exact cost of a sign permit for your specific location, you will need to contact the local authority or council responsible for regulating signage in that area, but budget for at least €40.


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6. Coffee Shop Insurance

So, technically insurance isn’t a permit or a license. However, it’s critical to your coffee shop that you have the proper protections in place in the event of damage to the property or injury to an employee or patron. In fact, local law often requires many types of insurance for coffee shop owners to carry. 

We recommend looking into the following policies for your coffee shop:

  1. Public Liability Insurance: this type of insurance is a must-have for any business, but especially coffee shops that come into contact with guests daily. Public liability insurance covers you as the owner if you, your employees, your coffee, or other food products accidentally cause harm to a patron. 

  2. Employers’ Liability Insurance: If you plan to have employees help run your coffee shop, employers’ liability insurance is usually required by law and keeps your employees protected.  

  3. Contents and Stock Insurance: This insurance covers loss or damage to the contents, equipment, and stock within your coffee shop, including furniture, machinery, fixtures, and inventory.

  4. Business Interruption Insurance: This coverage helps compensate for financial losses if your coffee shop experiences a temporary closure due to an insured event, such as a fire or flood, and incurs a loss of income during that period.

  5. Product Liability Insurance: If your coffee shop serves food or beverages, product liability insurance can protect you against claims related to any harm caused by the products you sell.  

  6. Theft and Burglary Insurance: This insurance provides coverage for losses resulting from theft, burglary, or vandalism to your coffee shop's property or assets.

  7. Commercial Auto Coverage: Planning on taking your coffee shop mobile? Or, will you have a company vehicle to transport supplies when necessary? If either of these situations applies to you, you will need a commercial auto policy that covers your company vehicle in case of a car accident"

7. Food Hygiene Training 

To allow your employees to serve food to paying guests, there are certain food hygiene and safety regulations that must be followed. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) provides guidance on food safety and hygiene practices for food businesses in Ireland. It is recommended that all staff involved in the handling and preparation of food, including those working in coffee shops, complete a recognised food safety training course.

By having trained staff who are knowledgeable about food safety practices, you can maintain a high level of food safety and hygiene in your coffee shop, ensuring the well-being of your customers and compliance with food safety regulations.

Consider contacting the FSAI or consulting with a food safety professional to obtain detailed guidance on food safety training requirements and best practices applicable to your coffee shop in Ireland."

Note: in Ireland, there is no specific "food handler's permit". I have suggested the above language if you want to include a similar section.

8.Building Health Permit (Health Service Executive Approval)

Wait a minute. Not only do your employees need a health permit but the building does too? Yep, that’s right! Coffee shops typically need an inspection to prove to the public that it is in sanitary condition and fit to serve food to customers. 

How to Get a Building Health Permit

To obtain a building health permit for your coffee shop, you will need to go through an approval process with the local Health Service Executive Environmental Health Officer or the relevant local authority responsible for food safety. They will conduct inspections of your premises to ensure compliance with regulations related to hygiene, ventilation, waste disposal, food storage, and other health and safety requirements.

During the inspection, the officer will assess factors such as the layout of the premises, cleanliness, food storage facilities, handwashing stations, toilet facilities, and pest control measures. They will provide you with guidance and recommendations to ensure your coffee shop meets the necessary standards.

How Much Does a Building Health Permit Cost?

Typically, there are fees associated with the application and inspection process for the building health permit. These fees can range from a relatively modest amount to higher fees for larger or more complex establishments. To determine the exact cost of obtaining a building health permit for your specific coffee shop location, it is recommended to contact the local Health Service Executive Environmental Health Officer or the relevant local authority responsible for food safety in your area.

9. Liquor Licence

Liquor? In a coffee shop? Sign us up! While most coffee shops stick to lattes and cold brews, some expand their offerings to include alcoholic beverages. Check out Rosella Coffee & Wine Bar for tips to perfect the coffee shop by day, wine bar by night concept. 

How to Get a Liquor Licence

Due to the consequences that can go along with serving alcohol, liquor licences often come with the most stringent requirements out of all of the coffee shop permits and licences you’ll need. You will need to determine which type of licence is most suitable for your coffee shop. The primary types of liquor licences are:

  • On-Licence: This licence allows for the sale and consumption of alcohol on the licenced premises, such as a bar or pub. If you intend to have a bar area or serve alcohol for consumption within your coffee shop, you would typically require an on-licence.
  • Restaurant Licence: If you plan to serve alcoholic beverages in conjunction with food service, you may be eligible for a restaurant licence. This licence allows for the sale of alcohol to accompany meals in a designated dining area.

You can contact your local licencing authority if you are uncertain about your licencing requirements. 

How Much Does a Liquor Licence Cost?   

To obtain accurate and up-to-date information regarding the cost of a liquor licence for your specific coffee shop location, it is recommended to contact the local licencing authority or the relevant local authority responsible for issuing liquor licences in your area.

10. Live Entertainment Licence 

Coffee shops striving to liven up their atmosphere often offer live entertainment on select days. Whether you plan to host a solo guitarist, a slam poetry event, or a spoken word artist, you’ll need a live entertainment licence first

How to Get a Live Entertainment Licence

The local council or the local licensing authority is typically responsible for granting live entertainment licences. They will provide information on the specific requirements and application process for obtaining a licence.

How Much Does a Live Entertainment Licence Cost? 

Live entertainment licenses vary depending on the local authority. However, they can also vary based on the size of your coffee shop, whether you have performances indoors or outdoors, and whether the entertainment will go on late into the night.

Coffee Shop Licencing and Permit Laws in Ireland

As you can see from the permits and licences in this guide, there are many hoops to jump through to open up a coffee shop. However, all of them help keep you, your customers, and your employees safe and your business in compliance with local laws. 

Claiming ignorance is never a defence when it comes to following local laws and regulations. Double check your local city council’s websites to ensure you know which permits and licences you need and how to apply for them. 

One more thing. Make sure you keep all insurance policies, permits, and licences current and up-to-date — otherwise you could face a huge fine or even possibly lose the right to hold that licence! It’s always easier to renew something than it is to have to start from scratch and apply all over again.

Next Steps to Open Up Your Coffee Shop 

If you have the drive, dream, and determination, all you need is to follow through with the plan. Think of the amazing memories your customers will create in your coffee shop — just follow the right rules, obtain the permits and licences you need, and you’re set to open your doors! 

There’s no doubt that the cost of licences and permits alone is enough to put a dent in your coffee shop’s budget. However, if you’re aware of all the costs of opening a cafe from the beginning, you’ll be able to plan accordingly to make the numbers work. 

Ready to hit the ground running? 

Download your free business plan template today. With a solid business plan, the necessary permits and licences, and the right amount of caffeine, you’ll be ready to seize the day and get your dream coffee shop ready to go. 

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