10 Permits that are Required for Planning an Event

When planning an event, organizers must be well-informed about all the necessary permits needed for events well in advance and believe me, you might need quite a few. So to answer your question, do you need a permit to host an event? Yes! 

There are plenty of permits that can take some time and legwork to secure, so it’s wise to give yourself enough time before the event to get everything you need.

As a result, the event will proceed smoothly without a problem.

The worst-case scenario would be to find out at the last minute that a permit was required, with no time to get it, leading to the possibility of having to cancel or face huge fines.

Planners can prevent disaster by doing plenty of research about all the required permits in their area well in advance, starting by reading this article.


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Permits frequently needed for events include:

1. Noise permit

Events that are held outside often require securing a noise permit. Different towns and cities have their own regulations about noise in public spaces, but most prohibit loud activity, including music, between 10pm-7am.

Check local ordinances and apply to all necessary government agencies for a noise permit prior to the event.


2. Alcohol license 

Organizers who plan on serving alcohol at their events would be wise to proactively apply for an alcohol permit from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control as soon as possible - check out more info about alcohol permits here.

On average, it takes between 75-90 days to process an application.


3. Fire/Fireworks permit

Thinking about having fireworks punctuate your event?

Then organizers must make sure that fireworks are legal in the county where the event will be held. There are many counties in Southern California, including San Diego and Los Angeles County, where fireworks are 100% illegal, and punishable by fines up to $10,000.

Information about fireworks in Fontana can be found here. For other cities in Southern California and around the U.S, a quick internet search will yield all necessary information.


4. Health permit

Plenty of people don’t know what a health permit is, but even one-time event organizers will need to secure a health permit if food and/or drinks will be sold to the public.

The Department of Environmental Health issues health permits as long as certain very specific conditions are met. Find out more helpful information about health permits here.


5. Business license

The vast majority of businesses require business licenses to operate lawfully. Organizers should thoroughly investigate information about the process of securing business licenses through their state before investing fully in their theater company, concert hall, performing arts center, or other entities.  

Learn more about business licenses in California here.


6. Building permit (tents)

Carnivals, pop-up performing arts, political demonstrations, races, and other outdoor events can often require setting up tents. In order to put up tents in public spaces, a building permit is required.

Information about building permits for tents in Orange County can be found here.


7. Seller's permit

The California State Board of Equalization provides business licenses and seller's permits to those who wish to sell goods. Plenty of handy information about sellers permits and corresponding rules can be found online to help get you started. If located in California, read below: 

California Seller’s Permit: If you are doing business in California and intend to sell or lease tangible personal property subject to sales tax sold at retail, you are required to have a seller’s permit and prominently display it at your place of business.”

Make sure all vendors at the event have California seller’s permits to avoid major headaches down the road.


8. Event permit

Event permit requirements vary from city to city, so it’s really important that organizers look at the town/city ordinances where the event will be held and make sure they apply for a special event permit in time.

For example, in Los Angeles, special event permit information can be found and applied for  online.

The factors considered when reviewing an event permit application can be found at that link, as well as through their contact information.

For the city of Encinitas, the actual special event application is available here. Organizers will notice that the cost of the application increases based on the number of people who will attend.


9. Temporary Use and Structure permit

There are two types of Temporary Use Permits. One is for vacant land, meaning if you are using vacant properties for temporary usage such as an event. The other one is if you need temporary space for loading areas, parking, vendors, etc. 

Usually, events that take place on private property such as carnivals and festivals will need this permit. 


10. Premises License

If you are lucky, your venue will already have this license, so before you apply for anything, confirm with your venue whether a premises license is granted (this might save you from getting other unnecessary permits as well).

This type of license is granted for a specific location, thus authorizing the holder to host any of these activities: the sale of alcohol, the supply of alcohol by a club to its members and guests.


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There are a variation of licenses and permits for events that are required to put on even one-time events - it can feel rather overwhelming to try to research them all. But this is time well-spent because it insures the event will be completely law-abiding and avoid problems later on.

Blowing off a required permit can be disastrous - the event could be completely shutdown, heavy fines could be imposed, or both could happen.

Prevent disaster by doing plenty of research, applying for permits early, and making sure all paperwork has been taken care of before the event occurs.

Good luck!

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