#2 Location, Location, Location!

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(Selecting Your Location)

A. Location Matters - Identify “Location Specific” Needs & Permits

Make sure the space you select, or design, will have adequate room for all the areas you will need like: dining area, kitchen space, production area, prep areas, dishwashing area, hand sinks, equipment storage, employee area/lockers, refrigeration, freezers, dry storage, office, bathroom areas, storage for cleaning supplies, or any other areas necessary for a smooth operation.

If renovations are necessary, be sure to obtain proper building, fire and health department permits. Let’s identify some of those permits or licenses you might need and where to get them. You would normally start at the city or town hall in the place you choose to locate your business.

Municipal Permits and Licenses for the Location

As mentioned earlier in Step 1, first check the zoning to make sure the zoned use will allow the type of food establishment you intend to start. For construction or renovations, building permits, plumbing, electrical, and/or mechanical permits may be needed. These can be obtained from the local building official at the town or city hall.
Potential Municipal Permits/Licenses You May Need
Each municipality treats these differently so always check with the municipality where you choose to locate your business. This is a partial list.
  • Zoning Conformance - Land Use Permits/Variances and Special Use Permits
  • Building Permits (electrical, plumbing, mechanical, building, parking, paving, demolition, etc.)
  • Fire Plan Review – Sprinkler, fire alarm, ancillary inspections
  • Liquor License (if applicable) and related Background Checks. Check with the municipality where you choose to locate your business to see if these licenses are available – (Learn more about the Liquor License process below under “Learn More”)
  • Victualling License – Victualer is a restaurant, coffee shop, cafeteria, lunch cart, delicatessen, caterer, ice cream parlor, café, bar, luncheonette, tavern, sandwich stand, soda fountain and all other types of eating or drinking establishments.
  • Historic Commission approval/permits (if applicable)
  • Sign Permits
  • Sewer connection or wastewater pre-treatment permits
  • Right-of-Way/Physical Alteration Permits (Curb cuts, outdoor seating, etc.)
  • Other permits: Games, music, caterer, dances, entertainment, exhibits, holidays, video, sound, tavern, outdoor dining/sidewalk, etc.
Link to a list of municipality websites: http://www.ri.gov/towns/

Learn More:
General Liquor License Process

State Permits and License for the Location

Depending upon location, construction, renovations, or your business type, you may need to obtain various permits or licenses from different state agencies. Below is a list of some potential state permits and licenses you may need. Be sure to determine what you may need in advance and allow ample application process time so as not to hold up the opening of your business.

Most Health Department food service permits will only be granted after the restaurant passes a health inspection. Therefore, it is important to understand the local requirements early in the process to ensure that any planned kitchen or dining room configuration will be in accordance with the health department rules and regulations.

Health inspections are conducted based upon the Rhode Island Food Code. You should become familiar with the sections of the Food Code that pertain to your business or hire someone who can help you meet these requirements.
Potential State Permits/Licenses You May Need:
This is a partial list.
  • RI Health Department, Food Service Restaurant Seats License
  • RI Health Department, Pubic Water Supply Permit (if applicable)
  • RI Health Department, Shellfish Business License (if applicable)
  • RI Health Department, Food Processor License (if applicable)
  • RI Division of Taxation – Retail Sales permit, Cigarette and/or Tobacco Products Retail License
  • RI Lottery Sales License
  • RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM) – Onsite wastewater treatment system (OWTS) certification/conformance (if applicable) - if needed, you may want to consider arranging a pre-application meeting with the DEM, Office of Customer and Technical Assistance. For more information go to: http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/customertech/preapp-meeting.php.
  • Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMR) – if alterations are anticipated within 200 feet of a coastal feature, an Assent is required.
  • Department of Transportation (RIDOT) – Physical Alteration Application Permit (PAP), for work such as curb cuts, signs, or any alterations needed on state owned roads or highways.

Public Utility Services for the Location

Be sure to check that the electric, water, and gas capacities are sufficient at the location, especially if you anticipate adding new equipment or a sprinkler system. Check with utility providers for guidance.
  • Sewer/Wastewater Pretreatment permits - arranged through either the local municipality or wastewater authority, depending on who has jurisdiction in your location. Check with your city or town hall for guidance
  • Water Supply System – arranged through either the local municipality or Water Authority, depending on who has jurisdiction in your location
  • Telecommunications systems connections – contact local provider (i.e. Cox, Verizon, etc.)
  • Electricity hook up – contact National Grid
  • Gas hook up – contact National Grid

B. Location selection check list

Location Selection Check List

C. Develop Project Plan

Opening a restaurant is a fast paced, complicated and multi-faceted project with many parties involved, generally including outside advisors. To open on time, within budget and successfully, it is critical to have a clear and detailed project plan, so no detail falls through the cracks. Project management tools can be helpful in managing this and facilitating status reporting, accountability and schedule compliance.

D. Consider hiring an expert for assistance in this area

Once you know what type of space you need, work with a commercial realtor to identify locations near your target market. You may also be able to find a “local expert” or restaurant consultant who is familiar with the area and can guide you through the quirks of the local codes and requirements.

When you find a promising location, make sure to review the lease carefully with your attorney. Make sure you understand what your rent covers, such as maintenance of common areas, utilities or security services.

You may need other professionals to help you along the way, be sure to identify the type of assistance you may need a head of time.

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