If you have incorporated a business in Hawaii or planning to form a small business in the state then it’s time to apply for a business license. In order to operate your business in Hawaii, business licenses, permits, and other professional licenses have to be obtained. Absence of license or permit to operate a specific business can lead to heavy penalties and in some cases, closure of the business.
It is important to note that a business license in Hawaii pertaining to a specific industry is issued or regulated by agencies related to that industry. For example, food services require license or permits, which are regulated by the State of Hawaii, Department of Health, Sanitation Branch. Similarly, a license to open a firearm store and sell firearms in the county of Hawaii is being regulated by the Department of Finance, Vehicle Registration & Licensing Division.
How to Get a Business License in Hawaii
Where and how do you apply for a Hawaii company license? Are permits required for my business entity? Does the business entity require a single license or multiple permits or licenses? Who is the issuing authority for these licenses or permits? The only way to answer these questions is by understanding the process of business licensing.
There are two steps towards acquiring a business license in the state of Hawaii and they are:
The Industry and Business Operation
This is the first step towards acquiring a business license that is appropriate for your business. You need to identify the industry relevant to your business. Once you have identified the industry, you need to be clear about what your business entity is offering in terms of service or products. Let’s look at an example to understand this well.
Industry Type: Food Business
- Food establishment category refers to “permanent” establishments like restaurants, catering entities, bars, convenience stores, or other types of food establishments.
- There are “Special Event Food Establishments” as well. These are not permanent in nature and manifest in the form of food sale events like fundraiser events, carnivals, farmers market, and food shows among others.
- Lastly, there are “vendors” that can be a part of food establishments or special event food establishments. Food vendors include lunch wagons and food trucks.
Business License or Permits
- Business license in Hawaii is required if you are planning to set up a bar or serve liquor in a food establishment.
- If you are planning to start a restaurant or become a caterer, you will require a business permit.
- If you are planning to establish lunch wagons or food trucks then you will be required to obtain a vendor business license as well as a permit to operate as a vendor.
Who issues the License?
Who is responsible for the issuance of Hawaii company license? What is the annual fee? Do I need to renew it? These are some of the important questions to consider as licenses pertaining to different industries are issued by different government authorities. It is also important to consider the fact that for some businesses, only permits are required and in some cases, both business license and permits are required. Let’s look at the Food Business example to clearly understand this.
Food Establishments in Hawaii
If you set up a food establishment then it will be regulated by the State of Hawaii, Department of Health, Sanitation Branch. A food establishment will not require a business license in Hawaii; instead you will require a permit. The permit application is different for different counties and has to be filed with the sanitation branch of the county you are starting your business in for example:
- FOOD ESTABLISHMENT – MAUI
If you are planning to set up a permanent food establishment in Maui then the application has to be submitted at Sanitation Branch, 54 High Street, Room 300, Wailuku, HI 96793.
The business license or permit fee for a small restaurant would be $200 and that of a large restaurant would be $400.
The permit has to be renewed each year.
- FOOD ESTABLISHMENT – KONA
If you set up a permanent food establishment in Kona then the application has to be submitted at Sanitation Branch, 79-1020 Haukapila Street, Room 115, Kealakekua, HI 96750.
The Permit fee for a small restaurant would be $200 and that of a large restaurant would be $400.
The permit has to be renewed each year.
Now, if you were to serve liquor on the premises then you will have to file an application for business license in Hawaii to serve liquor. The liquor license has to be renewed each year on May 31 and the annual fee will depend on the type of outlet, for example: The business license fee for a restaurant that serves wine and beer is $960 and the fee for a restaurant serving all types of alcohol is $1,320.
Once, you have identified the type of business, all you have to do is download the correct business license application and file it online.