Transform It

You've completed your business planning, applied for licenses, and selected a location. Now it's time to transform your space - first securing the necessary permits.

Permit Type Required for Time and Cost
Health Dept. Food Service Plan Review Required for all You must get Food Service Plan approval ($444-$888 - one time review fee) before construction permits will be issued. Note: You will also need to pay for an annual food service business permit and the cost is based on the type of food service business you have.
Land Use Permits
  • Conditional use
  • Change or establish use
Master Use Permit must be approved before construction permits; (Conditional Use takes 5-7 months and costs $3,700-$5,000) Construction Permit to Establish Use is usually issued concurrent with other construction permits
Construction Permits
  • Minor interior alterations
  • Small Projects
  • Remodels
  • New construction
Minor interior alterations are issued with 24 hours. Small project initial plan review takes 1-2 weeks. Remodels and new construction permits may take 5-8 weeks. Costs are usually based on project value.
Trade Permits $5 per name Over-the-counter or subject-to-field-inspection permit for small improvements. Plan-reviewed permit for larger projects. Costs are usually based on project value.
Sprinklers and Fire Alarms $110 4 to 9 weeks for each cycle of review
Sign and Awning Permits Variable Basic fee for signs up to 100 square feet is $120; additional amount for larger sizes.
Right-of-Way Permits Outdoor seating: Tables & Chairs ($146), Sidewalk Café ($516)

Food Service Plan Review

Public Health-Seattle & King County requires a plan review for all food services operations before opening day. The plan review must be approved before any construction begins to ensure you have the necessary facilities and equipment. Note: Restaurants that have been closed less than 90 days may in certain situations be exempt from plan review. Check with the Food Protection Program to clarify your responsibilities.

  • What's in the Plan? The Guide for Food Service Plan Review provides detailed information about developing and submitting a plan, and about the approval process. Please note that plumbing plans are not forwarded to the plumbing section for review. However, you do need to show in your plans that your three-compartment sink will be directly connected to a grease trap or interceptor. If plumbing plans are required for review, you are responsible for submitting plumbing plans directly to the plumbing section.
  • What's on your menu? Permits and fees are based on risk levels determined by the type of food and preparation steps required for your menu, which determines your classification. The more complex the menu and preparation of foods, the higher the risk level, which in turn relates to more frequent inspections:
    • Risk Level 1 - one routine inspection per year
    • Risk Level 2 - one routine inspection and one educational visit per year
    • Risk Level 3 - two routine inspections and one educational visit per year

Check out the information for the different risk levels and classifications to understand what type of permit you'll be getting and the annual permit fee associated with your permit.

We highly recommend that you set up a pre-submittal meeting with the county Food Protection Program before submitting your application. That way, you'll know your submittal is complete during the plan review process.

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Plan review takes approximately 14 days and fees range from $444-$888. Beyond that, extra time = extra charges.

Land Use Permits

Once you've secured your location, you can apply for any necessary land use permits.

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Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections offers free land use coaching, which is also available by appointment for $125. If you need additional information on land use, building codes, and which requirements apply to you, consider hiring an architect or other building professional to help explain.

Construction Permits

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections issues permits for new construction and alteration of commercial buildings. In many cases, construction permits can be issued along with trade permits (such as electrical, mechanical, or refrigeration) and with a use permit, if required. A Certificate of Approval from the Department of Neighborhoods is required if your site is a landmark building or in a historic neighborhood.

  • Subject-to-Field-Inspection (STFI) Permits are for small, relatively simple projects. Please note that the use of space must be previously established by permit for restaurant use to be considered for a STFI permit. If the commercial space you are looking at requires a change of use, the space would not qualify for a STFI permit.
  • Full-Plan Review Construction Permits are for complex projects, such as major additions or new structures. See Seattle Tip 100 - Getting a Multifamily or Commercial Construction Permit. If your construction is valued over $75,000, a licensed design professional (architect or engineer) will have to prepare the plan documentation for you.
  • If you propose a substantial renovation or will increase the building's useful or economic life (as determined by Seattle DCI), you'll have to meet the Substantial Alterations requirements.
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If you hire a contractor, use only Department of Labor and Industries licensed contractors. Your contractors will need to hold Seattle business licenses to pull permits.

Useful Resources

Trade Permits

Trade permits are needed for work in specific areas, but usually your licensed contractor will get the permit.

Trade Permits Issued by Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections:

Trade Permits Issued by Public Health-Seattle & King County:

Sprinkler and Fire Alarm Permits

Sprinkler and fire alarm permits are required from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections when installing or upgrading these systems. (Do you need sprinklers?)

  • The Department of Construction and Inspections will route architectural plans and fire sprinkler and fire alarm shop drawings to the Fire Department for review. Each round of review may take up to 4 weeks depending on the complexity of the project. Prior to project completion, the Seattle Fire Department inspects all fire protection systems, including sprinklers, fire alarms, and rangehood fire suppression systems.
  • Sprinkler systems may also require permits from King County Plumbing and a Water Availability Certificate or other certification from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). For new systems, a flow test may be required to ensure sufficient water flow.
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Fire Department staff are usually available near the Applicant Services Center (ASC) to assist with plan review and provide technical assistance, or you may contact the Seattle Fire Marshal's Office at (206) 386-1450 or online.

Sign or Awning Permits

Sign or Awning Permits are required from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections to install, alter, or repair any permanent sign that's visible from the public right-of-way. You'll also need a permit to install or alter an awning, even if you're just covering an existing awning with new fabric.

You may also need the following permits/approvals:

  • Electrical Permit from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections for electric signs.
  • Street Use Permit from Seattle Department of Transportation if your sign or awning extends over any public place. This permit processing time ranges from 1 day to 2 weeks depending on the details. You must get your Street Use Permit before applying to the Department of Planning and Development for your Sign Permit.
  • Certificate of Approval from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods if your site is a landmark building or in a historic neighborhood.

Right-of-Way Permits

If you're planning outdoor seating, in order to install anything that extends into or over public space, or if you temporarily need to use public areas for construction activities, you'll need a Right-of-Way Permit from the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Economic Development

Markham McIntyre, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 5752, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94708, Seattle, WA, 98124-4708
Phone: (206) 684-8090
Phone Alt: (206) 684-0379
Fax: (206) 684-0379

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The mission of the Office of Economic Development (OED) is to help create healthy businesses, thriving neighborhoods, and community organizations to contribute to a robust economy that will benefit all Seattle residents and future generations.