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Nightlife Technical Assistance

Download the Nightlife Handbook (pdf format)
Download the Appendix (pdf format)

Nightlife Table of Contents (HTML version)

2009 Nightclub Sprinker Requirements


There are a great many things to consider when starting or expanding a nightlife business in the City of Seattle. This handbook is designed to help you through the "maze" of government rules and regulations involving nightlife establishments. Compiled for you by the Mayor’s Office of Film + Music’s Technical Assistance Office, this tool is updated regularly to give you the most current information.

We understand you want to begin doing business without delay and there can be a strong tendency to ignore or gloss over government requirements. However, hastiness can result in costly problems for your business in the future. We hope you will consider the information you find here to be integral in your process, and also well worth your time and attention.

Our goal is to put you on the right track to dealing with government agencies while planning, opening and maintaining your nightlife establishment with as much ease as possible. We will connect you with the appropriate offices, organizations and services to help you start, expand and maintain your business. This guide brings together important factual, up-to-date, and easy-to-understand information on running your business in Seattle.

Section I. - Before You Start the Paperwork. We discuss important steps every business owner should take before applying for licenses to operate a nightlife establishment. At the end of this section, you will find a helpful checklist to help you stay on track.

Section II. - Business Licenses. We summarize the key business licenses, registrations and permits required by city, county and state agencies, as well as other important requirements relevant to nightlife establishments.

Section III. - City, State and Federal Tax Requirements. This section focuses on City, State and Federal Tax requirements and where to find important tax-related information.

Section IV. - Maintaining Your Nightlife Establishment. Includes tips on maintaining neighborhood relations, neighborhood resources, all-ages dance events, underage performers, safety and security. This section also includes a guide to ‘Best Practices’ for night clubs.

Resource Directory - Here you will find alphabetical listings by department for city, county, state and federal agencies, plus listings for various resources including: business support organizations, chambers of commerce, and small business associations. Many of these organizations provide technical assistance and services to small businesses. We encourage you to contact them and take advantage of their important services.

Please Note: The material in this handbook is intended for general informational purposes. While it is current at the time of publication, changes to the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC), state laws, or other regulatory requirements may invalidate some of this information. In the event of a conflict between this guide and the official Law, Rule or Code, the official documents prevail.


Compiled by Rachel White, Music + Nightlife Program Coordinator, Office of Film + Music

The Seattle Office of Film + Music wishes to thank the following organizations, whose business assistance resources were instrumental in the development of our program, and this handbook.

“Planning, Managing and Policing Hospitality Zones: A Practical Guide” Responsible Hospitality Institute, Santa Cruz, CA. 2006.

“Getting a Business Started: A Guide to Owning a Business in San Francisco” San Francisco Business Commission, San Francisco, CA. 2003.

“Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments: New York Nightlife Association and NYPD, New York, NY. 2007.