General Information and Steps to Start and Register A Mobile Food Establishment (MFE) in Rhode Island

Business Structure

  • If your business structure will be one of the following; Corporation, Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership, Non-profit Corporation or Liability Company, you will need to register your business with the RI Department of State, Secretary of State’s Office (SOS). Find out more at: https://www.sos.ri.gov/divisions/business-services/ri-business/start-your-rhode-island-business
  • If your business will be organized as a Sole Proprietorship or a General Partnership, you will need to contact the City or Town Clerk in the municipality where your business will be operating from to file a Trade Name Certificate to register your “Doing Business As” (DBA), a trade name or a fictitious name, if you use one.

Required Documents for State Registration of Mobile Food Establishments with the RI Department of Business Regulation (DBR)

In Rhode Island, MFE’s need to be registered with the State of RI Department of Business Regulation (DBR), before obtaining any municipal business permits. Applicants will be able to register their MFE online using the State of Rhode Island e-Permitting Portal at https://rhodeisland.viewpointcloud.com/categories/1071/record-types/6364. Applicants will be required to submit the following documents whith their DBR application submission. Be sure to obtain these required documents below before applying to DBR:

  1. State Fire Marshall MFE Inspection Certificate - Obtain an annual inspection of your MFE from the RI State Fire Marshal’s Office, if applicable. Upon passing the inspection, the approval will be documented and retained in the State e-Permitting Portal. Retain a copy of the fire inspection certificate and keep it on your MFE. Obtaining a state MFE fire inspection also applies to out-of-state MFE’s. For more information or to schedule an inspection, please call (401) 889-5555. Requests for fire inspections must be made at least (7) business days in advance.
    -State Fire Marshal MFE Inspections – are only required if the MFE is equipped with any of the following:
    -Gasoline, diesel or electric generator
    -Propane or compressed natural gas
    -Commercial cooking equipment
    -Fire suppression system
    -State Fire Marshal MFE Inspection Checklist – please review the checklist so you are familiar with items that will be inspected during the fire inspection - Click here.
    -State Fire Marshal MFE Inspection Fee – in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-28.2-27 an inspection fee in the amount of $100.00 shall be collected at the start of the inspection by the inspector, and a copy of the statute requiring the fee shall be supplied to the appropriate party. If a "re-inspection" is required, an additional fee of $100.00 is due at the time of re-inspection. Acceptable forms of payment must be in the form of a business check, certified bank check, or personal check made payable to: "State of Rhode Island General Treasurer”. Cash, credit cards, or money orders will not be accepted.
  2. Mobile Food Service License issued from RI Department of Health (RIDOH) – Submit a copy of your valid Mobile Food Service license that was issued by the RIDOH, Center for Food Protection, with your DBR registration submission. This requirement applies to out-of-state MFE’s as well, even if you possess a similar health license/permit from your home state you will need to obtain a RIDOH Mobile Food Service license to operate in the State of Rhode Island. For an online RIDOH Mobile Food Service application click here: http://www.health.ri.gov/applications/FoodMobileService.pdf. To review a Checklist of RIDOH Mobile Food Establishment requirements click here: https://dbr.ri.gov/documents/divisions/commlicensing/FoodTrucks/MFEDOHCHECKLIST.pdf. For more information, contact the RIDOH, Center for Food Protection at (401) 222-2749.
  3. Valid Motor Vehicle Registration (If applicable) – All mobile food establishment vehicles that by state law need to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), must submit a copy of a valid current registration with your DBR registration submission. Out-of-state applicants must submit a copy of a valid current motor vehicle registration issued from the state their vehicle is registered.
    Valid Watercraft Registration – If you plan to use a watercraft, submit a copy of a valid current vessel registration issued by the RI Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), Office of Boat Registration & Licenses, with your DBR registration submission. Vessels with out-of-state registration must submit a copy of a valid current vessel registration from the state their vessel is registered. (For online vessel registration with RIDEM click here: http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/managementservices/licenses/boating-registration.php) For information about boat/vessel registration, contact RIDEM Boat Registration at (401)222-6647.
  4. Valid Motor Vehicle Insurance (If applicable) – Submit a copy of valid proof of motor vehicle insurance with your DBR registration submission. All applicants required to register their vehicles under state law must provide proof of motor vehicle insurance.
    Valid Watercraft Insurance – If you plan to use a watercraft, submit a copy of valid proof of watercraft insurance with your DBR registration submission. All applicants required to register their watercrafts under state law must provide proof of insurance.
  5. RI Retail Sales Permit - Submit a copy of your valid permit to make sales at retail, issued by the RI Division of Taxation, with your DBR registration submission. (For the RI Division of Taxation online Business Application and Registration (BAR) form, or to print a copy of the form: https://www.ri.gov/taxation/BAR/ for questions about sales tax registration, contact RI Division of Taxation, Registration Section at  (401) 574-8829.

Evaluate Potential Areas of Operation

  • Review City/Town Ordinances – It is recommended that you review the city and/or town ordinances pertaining to mobile food businesses before you apply for a city/town business permit in order to become familiar with the requirements and restrictions for mobile food establishments in each municipality. Link to Rhode Island City and Town Ordinances: https://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SupremeCourt/StateLawLibrary/Pages/CityAndTownOrdinances.aspx
  • Potential Municipalities – After receiving a Registration from the DBR, it is the responsibility of the mobile food business to find their own areas of operation within the parameters set by the municipality and to apply for the appropriate MFE permits with each city or town they wish to operate within.

Municipal Permitting Information

  • City/Town MFE Permit - After receiving your State Registration from the DBR, you can then apply for a MFE permit to operate in a specific city or town, if a permit is available, and/or if required by the municipality. For a few municipalities you can do this through the State e-Permitting Portal. If a municipality is not on the State e-Permitting Portal, contact each municipality clerk’s office directly to apply.
    Link to a list of municipality websites: https://www.ri.gov/towns/
  • Special Events – Depending upon the municipal ordinance, MFE’s may need to obtain a MFE permit from the city or town where the special event will take place. In some cases, you may be able to obtain a one-day permit to participate in a special event if you do not already hold a MFE permit with the municipality. Check with the Event Coordinator or the municipality clerk’s office.
  • Event Permit/Temporary Mass Gathering Permit – Any person or entity desiring to hold a MFE event on municipal property, such as an Event Coordinator, needs to obtain an Event Permit/Temporary Mass gathering Permit from the municipality prior to holding the event. For a few municipalities you may be able to do this through the State e-Permitting Portal, otherwise contact the appropriate municipality having authority over the property you wish to use to obtain an application for a permit and fee information.

State-Owned Property

  • Special Use Permits for State-Owned Property - Any person or entity desiring to hold a MFE Event on state owned property, such as an Event Coordinator, must first obtain permission from the state agency having jurisdiction over such property. Applicable permit fees may vary by property type and activity, consult with the appropriate state agency having authority over the property you wish to use. In most cases you will need to submit an application directly to the state agency.

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