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Business Licenses

Business licenses are required for all businesses except home occupations. A copy of the license application is available at the Building Department.

Download our Guide to Opening a Business in Berkley (updated April 2015)

Apply for your Business License:

Your first step should be to apply for a Business License at the City Offices. This will get the process going and put you in contact with the appropriate departments. There is a $200 application fee for new businesses. We strongly recommend that you apply for your Business License before signing any leases or long-term agreements in order to verify usage and zoning suitability of your site. Before completing your application, you should know the square footage of the building or space you will lease, the number of employees you expect to have (and grow to) and the number of off-street parking spaces available to your location.

Verify Zoning Requirements:

Verify with the City Planner that the site you have chosen will properly accommodate your business, as there are specific zoning districts for specific types of businesses. We recommend that you consider your parking requirements when choosing a location. It is important to remember that not all adjacent parking can be considered yours (i.e. on-street parking in front of building is for everyone's use). The City Planner will be pleased to answer questions to clarify this and other zoning issues. The Planner approves the business license application and forwards it to the Building Official to continue the process. Variances from the City Code will need formal approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Certain businesses also require approval from the State of Michigan or Oakland County. The State of Michigan issues licenses for a number of different businesses including child care centers and liquor sales. Child care centers in particular have specific building code criteria. Restaurants receive approval from Oakland County. Please understand that the County and the State are independent entities, often take longer to review business proposals, and often review different items than the City will. These links are provided for your convenience.

City Inspections:

Once you have determined that your site will accommodate your business, the City Building Official will work with you to see that the building is up to the Building Maintenance Code. If there are any changes that need to be made, they will need to be approved by the Building Official. This is especially true in instances where an older building needs to be modified with regard to Barrier Free Requirements. The City Building Official will inform you of what modifications will be required. Know that if you are changing usage of the location, it must comply with all Barrier Free Requirements for your type of business.

The Building Official can approve changes to the interior of the building; however, if you plan to change the size of the building, you will need to get approval from the Planning Commission.

Like the building itself, your grounds must also be 'up to Code.' The most common issue facing businesses regarding their property is compliance with the sign ordinance. We recommend that you obtain a copy of the sign ordinance when you apply for your business license. Code Enforcement will visit the site and give its approval or inform you of any changes that need to be made.

Receive your Certificate of Compliance:

Once the building and grounds have been approved through the final inspection, the City will approve your Certificate of Compliance.

The above is an overview of the process all businesses go through when getting started. Sometimes, however, a business doesn't quite 'fit' properly with the City Code. Depending upon what the ordinances require, and what your business wishes to do, there are four possible reviews and approvals that may be required before you are issued your Certificate of Occupancy.

These are:

The City Planner will let you know if any of these reviews will be necessary and answer any questions you might have. If you feel they might apply to you, the following gives additional details on how each of these reviews takes place. Please call the City for more information at 248-658-3320.


A business or property owner wishing to appeal a decision or zoning law can apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for a Variance. There is a $250 fee for this application and requires a minimum of 30 days advance notice to allow for the required legal notices. The ZBA will consider the request with emphasis on the business demonstrating a Practical Difficulty or Undue Hardship. The hearing is held in an open forum with any interested party having an opportunity to voice his/his opinion. The applicant, however, is usually the focal point, this being the opportunity to discuss plans. The City Planner presents a report of findings to the ZBA. As such, we recommend that you thoroughly discuss your plans with the City Planner before the hearing.

Site Plan Review:

A business wishing to make any physical changes to the exterior of their building or add parking must apply for site plan review. Applications are due 30 days before the Planning Commission meeting. The following fees apply:

Façade change only                                                $200
Building addition                                                      $300
New building (including engineering review)     $700

We strongly recommend a preliminary meeting with the City Planner before beginning this process in order to determine what issues will be discussed. The emphasis of the Planning Commission will be to ensure that the requested changes will not adversely affect the surrounding commercial and residential areas. It is important to remember that the Planning Commission is considering final plans not just a concept, and that all expected modifications must be included in the presented plans. If approved, any implementation of the plans will need to completely conform to what the Planning Commission approved. As a result, it is prudent to discuss your plans with the City before moving through this process. These preliminary efforts will considerably ease your final review.

Special Use Approval:

Certain uses are permitted as 'of right' within the City of Berkley. Other uses, because of their nature, are considered Special Uses, and cannot be administratively approved. To apply for a Special Use approval, there is a $340 application fee and 30 days advance notice is required. We recommend a preliminary meeting with the City Planner before beginning the process to determine what issues will be discussed. A public hearing on the matter is scheduled before the Planning Commission, and the required legal notices are distributed. The application will first come before the Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing and then make a recommendation to the City Council. The emphasis of the Planning Commission is to ensure that the neighborhood will not be adversely affected by the proposed use. As the business owner, you will also have an opportunity to discuss your plans. We encourage you to discuss you plans with the City before moving through this process.


Sometimes a business or property owner wishes to develop a property that is not zoned to accommodate their business. For example, perhaps the property is zoned for office purposes and the proposed business wants to open a restaurant. In this case, a rezoning is necessary (a preliminary visit with the City Planner will inform you if this is necessary). In a rezoning, the Planning Commission holds a public hearing regarding the rezoning, where opinions of interested parties are heard. The Commission then makes a recommendation to the City Council, which in turn makes the final decision. Unlike the previous approvals discussed earlier, a rezoning affects the City's ordinance (the current zoning map). As such, the City cannot only consider the business specifically being proposed; it also considers all of the other uses that could be permitted as 'of right' if the rezoning is adopted, the current development pattern, and the City's Master Plan. Should you find yourself needing to rezone property, please discuss the matter with the City to assist in locating an available property that is already properly zoned.