Business Licence Bylaw Renewal

The Business Licence Bylaw  establishes the rules and regulations for granting licences to businesses that meet the City’s criteria for doing business in Edmonton. While there have been several housekeeping amendments since the current bylaw was introduced in 2002, the regulatory framework and needs of businesses have changed significantly over the past two decades and a complete review and update of the bylaw was needed.

Project Status Update

The  proposed new Business Licence Bylaw was scheduled to go to the June 29, 2021 Urban Planning Committee (UPC) and then advance to City Council for a decision in early July. It has been postponed until the August 10, 2021 UPC.

This postponement will provide the City with an opportunity to enhance alignment with forthcoming financial policy and permit and licensing process improvement-related work. Following the August 10 UPC, the Bylaw will advance to the August 16 City Council meeting for a decision.

Why Did We Review The Rules?

The City Plan, approved by City Council on December 7, 2020, is a bold and innovative land use, policy and infrastructure framework that will guide the City as it grows to a population of two million. A number of initiatives, actions and changes need to work together to realize the vision set out in the City Plan. 

The Business Licence Bylaw Renewal is one of several initiatives underway supporting the City Plan vision by streamlining and simplifying the City’s permitting, licencing and regulatory processes. A new, modern and robust Business Licence Bylaw will help ensure all businesses have access to opportunities to thrive, create and prosper. 

The Business Licence Bylaw renewal will improve business licensing services for businesses and Edmontonians by:

  1. Providing clear, consistent, and reasonable regulations that are easier for businesses to understand and meet.
  2. Adjusting licensing requirements to help reduce barriers for businesses and enhance service delivery.
  3. Enabling the City to respond quickly and decisively to new and emerging business types.
  4. Improving enforceability of the regulations and alignment with regulatory and enforcement partners to facilitate a more timely and effective response to compliance-related issues.

These changes will balance streamlining processes with ensuring legislative and safety requirements are addressed. This includes ensuring the City has the ability to mitigate potential public safety risk factors associated with certain types of businesses and can support enforcement efforts if problems with a particular business emerge.

What’s Changing?

Many of the proposed bylaw changes will occur behind the scenes, creating efficiencies in how the City processes and issues business licences. However, some of the changes and benefits will be more noticeable to businesses. The proposed changes need to be approved by City Council before they can come into effect.

Summary of Proposed Changes
  • One or two year licence option. For businesses that have to supply additional documentation for renewal, a two-year licence means documents won’t have to be supplied as often. A less expensive 1-10 Travelling and Temporary Sales licence for occasional or short-term vendors will also be available.
  • New and updated licence categories (see below for more details).
  • Simplified fee schedule, including a reduced number of different licence fees.
  • Discounted licence fee as an incentive for businesses to renew their licence early or on time. 
  • Where applicable, the City will verify Provincial licensing requirements on behalf of businesses.
  • Simplified application and renewal requirements. For example, businesses required to provide Police Information Checks may not have to provide as many of them, or provide them as often. Businesses that require control plans to address noise and safety/security risks will have the option to review and update existing plans when renewing their licence instead of submitting a new plan as long as there are no significant operational changes.  
  • Minor changes to operating requirements for certain licence categories (see below for more details). The City will communicate the details of these changes directly to affected businesses.
  • Defined timelines for Fire Rescue Services, EPS and other required regulatory consultations.
  • A clearer, easier to understand bylaw.  The proposed new bylaw uses simpler language wherever possible. It is also organized with a table of contents and commonly used information, like application requirements, has been moved into schedules to help businesses more easily find what they need.
Proposed Licence Category Changes

Some business categories will change, and the category names on a licence may look different.  These changes are to better reflect the types of businesses operating in Edmonton, to be more adaptable to more modern ways of doing business, and to transition existing businesses to the new bylaw as seamlessly as possible. 

Please refer to the proposed new bylaw for a full list of the proposed categories and their definitions.

Proposed Operating Requirement Changes

Changes have been made to operating requirements for body rub centres, escort and escort agencies, second hand dealers and pawn brokers and minors prohibited drinking establishments to help streamline the process for businesses and/or address public safety risk factors. These changes were developed in consultation with regulatory and enforcement agencies and the businesses. Affected businesses will be notified directly of changes to operating requirements that will affect them.

Public Engagement

Members of the business community as well as the City’s regulatory and enforcement partners were provided with a number of opportunities to provide input on the proposed new Business Licence Bylaw .

Bylaw Clarity and Organization Survey (February to March 2021)
The business community was invited to provide feedback on the clarity and organization of the draft new bylaw through an online survey, which ran from February 16-March 5, 2021. The engagement findings were used to refine the proposed new bylaw to ensure it is as easy as possible to use and understand before it advances to the Urban Planning Committee and City Council.

Business Licence Requirements (June 2019 to January 2020)
The City engaged with regulatory and enforcement partners, businesses and business associations on the licensing requirements for drinking establishments, scrap metal recyclers, massage therapists, and body rub centres as many of the challenges identified with the current bylaw involve licensing of these types of businesses. Feedback was gathered through round table discussions and telephone interviews.

Bylaw Framework and Fee Structure (January to April 2019)
Business owners and business associations were invited to provide feedback on initial recommendations, which included some promising licensing practices identified through a review of business licence programs of 10 other Canadian municipalities. Feedback was gathered through a combination of an online survey, facilitated workshops, and focus groups and was used to refine the general framework and fee structure of the proposed bylaw.

Bylaw Challenges and Gaps (September to December of 2018)
The City engaged with enforcement and regulatory partners, such as police, municipal enforcement, zoning, safety codes, and Fire Rescue Services, and surveyed Edmonton business owners to help compile and validate a list of gaps in the current licensing framework and identify potential areas for improvement. 

Next Steps

The  proposed new Business Licence Bylaw was scheduled to go to the June 29, 2021 Urban Planning Committee (UPC) and then advance to City Council for a decision in early July. It has been postponed until the August 10, 2021 Urban Planning Committee. This postponement will provide the City with an opportunity to enhance alignment with forthcoming financial policy and permit and licensing process improvement-related work.

The proposed new bylaw must be approved by Council before the new regulations can come into effect and the old bylaw is repealed. Edmontonians and businesses will have an opportunity to share their views directly with members of Council by registering to speak when the bylaw advances to UPC. Following the August 10 UPC, the Bylaw will advance to the August 16 City Council meeting for a decision.

Many features of the proposed bylaw reduce unnecessary barriers for businesses and support a more equitable approach to licensing requirements. However, this work continues, and includes ongoing GBA+ analysis to ensure the needs of underrepresented stakeholders are considered and addressed.

The City will continue to apply this mindset to business processes, policies, procedures, and regular maintenance of the bylaw.  An ongoing priority of the Business Licensing annual work plan will be to review the bylaw, including the need for certain types of business licences and update it as required. 

Subsequently, the City is committed to working with Edmonton Police Services throughout 2022 to identify opportunities to address concerns specifically relating to liquor store sales and theft. This work requires engagement with industry and patrons, and a GBA+ lens to potential regulations. This work will be captured in the annual work plan, and if required, through the budgeting process.