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Illegal Business

  • Your business needs to be permitted for the zone you're operating in.

What Is It?

A business is illegal if it violates the uses established by our Land Use Code — such as a restaurant that operates in a space only designated for retail — or doesn't follow our rules for noise, outdoor storage, hours of operation, and other rules.

What It Isn’t

An illegal business is not a home business, medical marijuana dispensary or collective garden, or a street food cart or truck. We allow these businesses if they follow our rules.

An illegal business is not one operating without a business license. For businesses suspected of operating without a license, contact the Department of Finance and Administrative Services which issues them.

Rules to Follow

To operate your business legally and comply with our Land Use Code and other rules, you should:

Operate your business in a building where we allow that business. Our Land Use Code divides the city into residential, commercial, industrial, and other zones; we allow only certain types of business in some zones and restrict the operations of business in many zones.

Get a land use / master use – establish a use permit. If you open a business on a site where a different kind of business had operated (for example, a restaurant opening in a former retail store), you need to get a construction permit – establishing use in addition to construction, electrical, and other permits that we may also require.

If your business has been open for a long time in the same building and its use was legal at the time it began, we may consider your business to be legal as a nonconforming use even if our Land Use Code would now no longer allow it. If we consider your business a nonconforming use, you do not need to get a permit to establish use. However, if we get a complaint about your building’s physical condition, structural integrity, or ability to hold the number of customers your business attracts, we will require you to get a permit to establish use. 

Conduct your business in accordance with our rules about noise, storage, hours of operation, fire, and other rules. For example, we require a buffer from nearby properties if your business is in a residential area. We require noisy business activities to be conducted only inside your building. We also limit the operation of home businesses in residential zones to reduce their impact on surrounding homes. If customers visit your business, you may need a certificate of occupancy establishing the assembly load for the location.

Read the Code

Fines

We may fine business owners $150 to $500 per day. We will also charge the owner for inspections.

What Do You Want To Do?


Still Need Help?


 Ask Us

  • Call us at (206) 615-0808
  • Visit Code Compliance
    700 Fifth Ave., 19th floor
    M,Tu,Th, F: 8:00 a.m - 4:30 p.m
    W: 10:00 - 4:30 p.m.