Start a Business

Business owner in his store

A strong business community is vital to the health of our City – thank you for being a part of it. This information is targeted to businesses launching in or moving to Annapolis.

Starting a Business

Are you interested in starting a business but need help with the first steps to make it happen? We recommend you reach out to our partners at the Small Business Development Center or SCORE of Southern Maryland. They'll walk you through the development of your business plan, help you understand the start-up financing options available to you, assist you with your training needs, and much more. We're also happy to put you in direct contact with a business counsellor.  

Permits, Forms, and Applications

Use this section to find information on permits, forms, and applications needed to open or expand your business. This list is not meant to be inclusive, nor to give any legal advice regarding opening a business, but rather to serve as a guide. Businesses are urged to consult with the agencies listed below and with private counsel before proceeding to establish a business in Maryland.

The scope and complexity of a commercial project in the City determines the regulatory process and permitting required—from new construction or fit-out of an existing building, to occupying a “move-in ready” space. Application fees for each permit, as well as costs such as capital facilities fees (on new plumbing fixtures) must be carefully considered. Take the time to research these costs and build them into your business plan upfront. Also, allow yourself enough time for the permit review—depending on the complexity of the permit, reviews can take one week or several weeks, so plan accordingly.

Common City Permits

All permits can be found by accessing our Citizen Self Service portal.

  • Certificate of Use – Before you sign a lease in Annapolis, it is best to begin the Use and Occupancy Application process, which is required prior to opening your business.
  • Certificate of Approval – For businesses located in the Historic District of Downtown Annapolis, approval through the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is required for most exterior work, including signage.
  • Electric, Mechanical or Plumbing Permit – If the only work needed is plumbing or electrical, the corresponding permits are required.
  • Building Permit – Required for tenant fit-out of an existing space which requires construction such as removal/addition of walls, plumbing, electrical, fire protection or structural work.
  • Sign Permit – The City regulates commercial signage, including the size of signs and the number permitted per lot. These regulations are in the City’s Code, Section 17.60 – Signs. A sign permit must be submitted for review and approval based on these regulations.
    • Within the Historic District, the Historic District Guidelines have additional signage regulations. Historic Preservation Commission approval is a separate process from the sign permit, and is required BEFORE submitting the sign permit application.

Annapolis Department of Planning and Zoning

To ensure that your business is in regulatory compliance, one of the first stops you should make is the Annapolis Department of Planning and Zoning. It is responsible for a wide range of activities and responsibilities, including economic development, land use planning, affordable housing, transportation projects, historic preservation, open space conservation, and neighborhood improvement projects. Planning and Zoning coordinates the city’s efforts with state agencies and the regional planning commission and it oversees the operation of the Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Consult the City of Annapolis Zoning Ordinance Use Tables to make sure that your business/property meets the zoning requirements for the site. You may need a permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals. If you need assistance, the Department of Planning and Zoning is available to answer any questions. Business owners are encouraged to consult with Planning and Zoning staff early and often during the process of opening or expanding your business.

To contact Planning and Zoning, call 410-260-2200.

Permits and Licensing Division

The Permits and Licensing Division is responsible for building construction, code enforcement issues, and conducting inspections. This expert team will help you determine what permits are required for your type of business. If your project involves the construction, alteration, repair, or demolition of a structure, the team can help you determine whether your project will require a Building Permit. These regulations and inspections ensure that building construction and improvements are done in accordance with the building code and protect public safety. Permit fees are paid at the Permit Counter, located on the third floor of 145 Gorman Street.

Do not use your own judgment in determining whether you will need a building permit. The Permits and Licensing Division staff can easily determine whether you need a building permit. 

Call 410-263-7946 to request a consultation or pre-application meeting regarding opening your business.

When applicable, Permits and Licensing Division staff will involve the Anne Arundel County Health Department’s Bureau of Environmental Health. As part of its role in protecting of the general health of Annapolis residents and visitors, the Health Department is responsible for enforcing the state rules and regulations regarding various business establishments in the city to protect public health.

Other City Departments Involved When Establishing a Business in Annapolis

Department of Public Works (DPW)

The Department of Public Works creates a safe, clean and inviting urban living and working environment within the City and provides the systems, services and skilled employees necessary to do so. DPW’s responsibilities include street and sidewalk repair, refuse removal, and recycling throughout the City. Most commercial establishments must utilize private waste haulers for collection of solid waste and DPW has compiled a list of City of Annapolis Licensed Refuse Collectors for your convenience. Once the Department of Finance activates your water account, DPW will connect water and sewer to your business for a fee. Contact DPW for assistance as you plan your business opening.

Office of the City Clerk

The City Clerk’s Office is responsible for the licensing and regulation of many different types of businesses and events and prepares and grants certificates for over twenty-five different types of permits and licenses. The City Clerk, or designee, also serves as Clerk to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and the Board of Supervisors of Election.

Office of the Fire Marshal

The Annapolis Fire Department Office of the Fire Marshal is dedicated to preserving life and property from fire, explosion and other related hazards through fire prevention, public education and fire investigation. The Fire Marshal’s Office is also responsible for issuing several permits, inspections, and signature authority for Use and Occupancy Certificates.