COVID-19 UPDATE | The City is coordinating closely with our public health officials at the Santa Cruz County Health Department to prevent the further spread COVID-19. In an effort to protect you and our community, changes and measures have been adopted in daily operations and activities. For further details please click here for the City’s Response to COVID-19

Business Licenses and Permits

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BL and ZC process 

New Business License or Changing Use

  1. Fill out your Business License Application 
  2. Complete your Zoning Clearance Form: If you are unsure which form to use, simply skip to step 3 where a planner can assist you with the proper zoning clearance. 
  3. Email your application and zoning clearance form to to begin the first part of the process- obtaining a zoning clearance.
    • OR schedule an appointment with a Planner to obtain a zoning clearance and business license: (831)420-5100.


  1. Pay Online
  2. Mail your renewal to Finance: 333 Front Street, Suite 200,  Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Check Status or Search Business License Database

Walk-in applications and payments, appointment only: Typically, walk-in payments can be made with the Planning & Community Development department, located at 809 Center Street, Room 101. However, to keep the community and employees safe, we are limiting in-person contact to appointments only. If necessary, in-person appointments can be scheduled by calling (831)420-5100 during regular business hours.

Additional Resources

Doing business in the city limits of Santa Cruz requires a City of Santa Cruz Business License Tax Certificate. Application must be submitted on or before the day you start business. The business license tax is not refundable nor transferable. Payment of the Business License Tax Certificate does not relieve the applicant of any regulatory provisions, including, but not limited to City Ordinances. Check this list of city streets to see if your business is located within city limits.  


Non-Profit Status
Charitable and non-profit organizations are exempt from the business license tax. Please attach, to the completed application, a copy of the letter from the Internal Revenue Service or the California State Franchise Tax Board as evidence of your current tax exempt status.

For more information on obtaining a Non-Profit or Tax-Exempt status, contact either:

Registry of Charitable Trusts, Secretary of State, Sacramento
Telephone: (916) 445-2021 or (916) 653-3365

IRS Tax-Exempt Status Information

Occupancy Permit-Planning Requirements
If you are starting a business in the City of Santa Cruz or conducting business here, check with the City Planning Department for any required permits or approvals.

Please click here to update delinquent business licenses. 

City Admission Tax and Entertainment Permits
If your business will have live music, dancing, or other forms of entertainment and an admission is charged, you may be subject to the admission tax. Live music, dancing, etc. requires an Entertainment Permit. Contact the Finance Department at (831) 420-5070 for information. More information about the Admission Tax.

For more information contact the City Police Department at (831) 420-5840.

City Transient Occupancy Tax 
If your business is a hotel, inn, motel, bed and breakfast, or other lodging where living accommodations are provided for periods of less than thirty days, you may be subject to the Transient Occupancy Tax. Contact the Finance Department at (831) 420-5070 for information. More information about the Transient Occupancy Tax.

Other Permits and Fees:

Starting A Small Business? 

If you're unsure of the permits and licenses that you'll need for your business, the Economic Development Department can provide additional help. They have also set up Business Roadmap, an online small business resource portal which provides an overview of all the steps involved in starting a business and will inform you of specific requirements and fees you may be responsible for as a small business owner.


The information presented here has been prepared and provided to you for information purposes only. It does not supplant the laws, regulations, and procedures governing licenses, permits, and taxes of the City of Santa Cruz. In the event of changes in those laws, regulations, or procedures, the laws, regulations, and procedures are binding and take precedence. For the specific wording of the law, you are strongly urged to get a current copy of the municipal code section that you are interested in.

Revenue Division email -