This page will help you understand the steps to opening a brewery in San Francisco. It is a resource from the Office of Small Business, San Francisco's central point of information for small businesses.
Choose a location
Choose a location
- Find a location zoned for your business. Every location is zone differently - some could require a "Change of Use" or "Conditional Use" application, which can include a public hearing and neighborhood notification.
- Contact the SF Planning Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Permit Center at 49 South Van Ness Ave to understand zoning requirements for your proposed location. For more information, visit: https://sf.gov/information/zoning-businesses
- Taking over a space that already was a food/beverage manufacturer saves times and construction costs, as long as the restaurant recently passed inspections and was in compliance with current requirements.
- Check with the Planning Department for any restrictions in specific geographic areas in San Francisco.
- If you plan to do tastings or serve food, you will need to go through additional processes.
- Determine if you need to make changes to your space. Before signing a lease, you can consult with the SF Department of Public Health (DPH) and SF Fire Department (SFFD) to understand whether your space needs sprinkler systems, kitchen hoods, fire exits, capacity requirements, and more.
- Review DPH's checklist for a list of construction plan components typically required for plan review: https://www.sfdph.org/dph/files/EHSdocs/ehsFood/permitsdocs/PlanCheck_C…
- You can request a pre-application meeting from SFFD to discuss issues and questions regarding Fire Code and/or Building Code requirements: https://sf-fire.org/files/2021-05/SFFD%20Pre-Application%20Meeting%20Fo…
- Consider common manufacturing needs such as loading docks, roll up doors, floor drains, and proper ventilation. Also consider power needs. Increasing power needs may require extra construction, permitting, and may trigger impact fees, which can affect your timeline.
- Breweries can be Tenant Improvement (TI) intensive. Consider the duration of your lease versus your investment in TI and ensure that they are consistent.
- Review Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines to make sure your business is accessible. Learn more by visiting: https://sf.gov/information/ada-compliance-business
- Sign your lease. Leases can be tricky, so review the lease carefully before signing. We strongly recommend verifying the zoning of the property with the Planning Department before you sign a lease and to review the contract with a lawyer. If you need legal assistance, contact:
- Bar Association of San Francisco's Lawyer Referral and Information Service at 415-989-1616 or visit: https://www.sfbar.org/lris/ or
- Legal Services for Entrepreneurs at 415-543-9444 x217 or visit: https://lccrsf.org/get-assistance/legal-services-for-entrepreneurs/
- Note: Your landlord is required to provide information about the accessibility of the building, in case it needs renovations
Set up your business
Set up your business
- Create a plan for the type of business you will open.
- Choose a business structure. LLCs, Corporations and Limited Partnerships must register their structure with the CA Secretary of State before registering locally.
- Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This is used to identify your business and allows you to hire employees. If you are a sole proprietor without employees, you may choose to use your Social Security Number instead.
- Register your business with the City and County of San Francisco through the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector.
- Resource: https://sftreasurer.org/business/register-business
- Note: If you register your business before choosing a final location, you will have to update your registration with the new address. This can cost money and time.
- Choose and file a business name. File a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) Statement at the SF Office of the County Clerk if you will be using a name other than your given name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation. Research the name's availability in the county before filing.
- Apply for a U. S. Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) Permit and Brewer’s Notice. Contact the TTB Permit Division to find out what forms and permitting requirements are applicable to your brewery.
- Resource: www.ttb.gov/beer/qualify.shtml
- Note: TTB will require a lease or proof of building ownership, the names, addresses, and personal financial details of all investors/LLC members, and all LLC members will be required to
provide detailed personal statements.
- Apply for an Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) License. Review and decide which type of ABC permit applies to your situation. Licenses that allow for the brewing of beer are Types 1, 23, and 75. Contact ABC’s local office for further assistance.
- Apply for a Seller's Permit from the CA Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). Every location must have this permit to sell taxable goods.
- Obtain workers' compensation insurance if you will have employees. You will need these in order to obtain the DPH permit to operate.
File a Trademark for Your Brewery Name (Optional). A trademark is any individual or combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs that identifies or distinguishes the source of goods of one party from those of another. You will need to research to make sure your trademark isn’t already in use. File your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Note: This process can be long. The overall USPTO process from start to finish averages between 12 and 18 months.
File Trademarks for Your Beer Names (Optional). You can file a trademark for your beer names. Once you select the names and design logos, you will need to research to make sure your trademark isn’t already in use. File your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Note: if you have your beer names selected at the time you apply for a Federal trademark for the brewery name you can submit the applications for the beer names at the same time – up to 36 months before the launch of the beer itself.
Prepare your space
Prepare your space
- For new construction: Submit plans and documents to the SF Department of Building Inspection (DBI). Be prepared to work with an architect or designer to create your building project plans.
- View DBI plan specifications at: https://sf.gov/information/create-your-building-project-plans
- Visit DBI's Technical Services Counter at 49 South Van Ness (Permit Center) or email TechQ@sfgov.org for questions about building codes
- Water and wastewater capacity charge: If your business will use more water than the previous business or resident, you may have to pay a capacity charge to the SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).
- Resource: https://sfpuc.org/accounts-services/service-installations/capacity-char…
- Tip: Get an estimate of the water capacity charge from the SFPUC before you sign a lease. This fee can be high, especially if your location was not previously a restaurant.
- Gas and electric services: If your business needs new or additional gas or electric services, contact PG&E Building and Renovation Services to start the application process.
- Signs: If you want to install or change a canopy or sign on the outside of the building, ensure you comply with Planning Department and DBI sign guidelines.
- Planning Department: https://sfplanning.org/resource/signs
- DBI: https://sf.gov/step-by-step/get-permit-build-sign
- Note: Awning permit fees are waived each year during the month of May. You can qualify if you submit your permit application during the month of May. Ask for the permit fee waiver from Planning Department and DBI.
- Post all required posters and permits including, but not limited to, No Smoking signs, minimum wage information, and health inspection results
- Mark your calendar. Schedule equipment maintenance and set reminders to renew your permits and licenses as needed.
- Be prepared for SF DPH Health Inspections by checking walls, floors, and ceilings for damage; following best practices for food storage; collecting garbage; and ensuring workers have good hygiene.
- Resource: sfdph.org
- Light snacks such as pretzels and peanuts can be served without a full kitchen. If you wish to serve heavier fare, you must follow the food and kitchen requirements of a Full
- Resource: https://sf.gov/guide-opening-restaurant/
- If you plan on designing labels for your product, be sure to get your label(s) approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
- Resource: www.ttb.gov/labeling
- Prepare and pay your local, state, and federal taxes. Learn more from these departments:
Hiring your first employee is a big step and has new complexities. Learn about labor law and payroll taxes at the local, state, and federal levels.