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Environmental Health

Retail Food Safety Program: Restaurants, Bars and Licensed Health Care Facilities

All restaurants, bars and licensed healthcare facilities must obtain a permit to operate from the Department of Public Health. Should the site location require new construction or remodeling, the Department of Public Health is required to check plans and inspect the construction or remodeling. See the Plan Check Procedures under the Helpful Links for more information.

A permit to operate is not transferable. When a new business owner takes over an existing business, the new owner must apply for a permit to operate within two (2) days, otherwise a citation will be issued. Once applications are received, an inspection will be scheduled. A 45-day temporary permit will be issued and a reinspection conducted at the end of the 45-day period. Upon a successful inspection, the permit to operate will be issued.

Obtaining a Permit

Refer to the Fee Schedule in the Helpful Links for information on application fees. Send all application forms and documents to:

  • Environmental Health Section
  • Attn: Food Safety Program
  • 1390 Market Street, Suite 210
  • San Francisco, CA 94102

To obtain a permit, print and fill out the application forms below and follow all instructions:

  1. Permit Application Packet (pdf) - This packet includes an Application for Food Permit to Operate, a Fire Marshal Referral Form, a Labor Law Checklist for San Francisco Business Owners, a Declaration of Healthy and Safe Working Conditions, and a Workers' Compensation Declaration.
  2. Health Permit Application Zoning Referral Form (pdf)
  3. SFFD Referral Inspection Guideline/Checklist (pdf)
  4. Provide proof of Food Safety Certification.
  5. Submit an application fee in the form of a check or money order made payable to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
  6. Obtain a Business Registration with the City of San Francisco.

NOTE: Make sure that all applicants sign the applications: if partnership, all partners must sign; if corporation, authorized officer must sign.

Once we receive the application with payment, a Health Inspector will call you to set up an appointment for an inspection. The permit to operate will be issued by us upon the successful conclusion of our final inspection, the Tax Collector's confirmation that fees have been paid, and approval from the Building, Planning and Fire Departments', if they were involved.

The Permit will be mailed or given to the operator. It must be placed along with the Tax collector's License Certificate where it can be easily seen by the public.

Related Agencies

Building Department - Should the site location require new construction or remodeling, a building permit will be required.

Fire Department - A fire safety inspection of a new business is required to ensure that reasonable fire safety standards exist.

Planning Department - Once a site is selected for opening a food establishment, you should first check with the Planning Department.

Public Works - Permit is required for use of public walkways, alleys and streets for chairs and seating.