Get started

This page will help you understand the steps to opening a hair or nail salon in San Francisco. It is a resource from the Office of Small Business, San Francisco's central point of information for small businesses.

“The Nail Room owner, Van Nguyen, at her storefront in the Richmond neighborhood.” by Big Mouth Productions

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 pic@sfgov.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
    • Notes:
      • Taking over a space that already was a salon can save times and construction costs, as long as the salon recently passed inspections and was in compliance with current requirements.
      • If you purchase an existing salon, ask the previous owner to fill out an Establishment Closure form.  You will then submit your own establishment application.  The establishment license is only valid for the location and owner(s) it was issued to.
  • 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:

Set up your business

Set up your business
  • Create a plan for the type of salon 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.
  • 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 an Establishment Permit from the CA Board of Cosmetology. Each location requires its own permit.
  • Apply for a Seller's Permit from the CA Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) if you will be selling tangible goods.  Every location must have this permit to sell taxable goods.

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. 
  • Water and wastewater capacity charge: If your business will use more water than the previous business or tenant, you may have to pay a capacity charge to the SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).
  • 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.

Salon services

Salon services
  • Become a licensed barber, cosmetologist, esthetician, electrologist or manicurist.  Submit a completed initial examination application with the appropriate fee and any additional documentation.  Pass your exam and receive your license.
    • Resource: barbercosmo.ca.gov
    • Notes:

      • Salon workers must complete a required number of training hours before taking the State Board examination to become a licensed Cosmetologist, Barber, Esthetician, Electrologist, or Manicurist. Be sure you understand the hourly requirements, list of qualifying training schools, application process, and examination procedures.

      • The above license does not allow you to offer massages, tattoos, piercings or permanent cosmetics.  San Francisco regulates these activities separately. If you want to offer these services, apply through the SF Department of Public Health massage program or the Tattoo/Piercings/Permanent Cosmetics program.

  • Read the CA Board of Barbering and Cosmetology Frequently Asked Questions. They may have already answered some of your questions.

  • Dispose of hazardous materials properly. You can dispose of up to 220 pounds or 27 gallons of hazardous waste using the City’s drop off program at SF Recycling and Disposal Inc. Call (415) 330–1425 for an appointment.

After opening

After opening
  • If you want to rent out chairs (also known as booth rental), be sure that your renters have the proper licenses and permits. This means that a stylist is renting a station in your salon. The stylist pays you rent to use your facility, but typically keeps what they earn directly from his or her clients.

    • Note: Renters do not need a separate Establishment Permit. The owner of the establishment is responsible for the salon, booth and chair renters, and independent contractors.

  • If you plan to offer any additional services, apply for specialized licenses from the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.

  • 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.  
  • Conduct periodic self inspections using the Board's Self Inspection Worksheets to verify your salon is in compliance with California laws and regulations.
    • Note: The Board does not schedule inspections. To better ensure salon compliance, inspections are performed randomly by inspectors in your area.
  • Prepare and pay your local, state, and federal taxes. Learn more from these departments: