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You will need to obtain zoning approval if you are:

  • starting a new business
  • moving your business to a new location, or
  • changing business activities in an existing location 

Examples of changes to business activities include:

  • A cafe that will now serve alcohol
  • A 50-seat restaurant now seats 200 patrons
  • An auto body shop that will now perform engine repairs

Zoning approval is required in order to obtain a valid business licence.

What is Zoning?

Zoning is a set of rules that limit the activities and buildings that can occur in a certain location. 

Every legal parcel of land in Edmonton is assigned to a zone. Zones list the activities and buildings that may be allowed on the parcel. 

Zoning rules are set out in the Edmonton Zoning Bylaw

Zoning Basics

Zoning is used to:

  • Protect safety and public health (example: chemical plant not located next to a school)
  • Limit nuisance to neighbours (example: new nightclub with outdoor patio not located next to a retirement home) 
  • Shape communities to be desirable places to live, work and play (example: cluster businesses together to create a destination shopping area) 

Zoning limits: 

  • The types of businesses allowed in a location (example: liquor store not located near a school)
  • The intensity of activity allowed in a location (example: a small bar can be located near houses, but not a large nightclub.) 
  • Impact on neighbours (example: a business requiring a large amount of customer parking) 

How Does Zoning Affect My Business?

If you are starting a new business, moving your business or changing business activities in an existing business, you will need to obtain zoning approval to ensure that your business meets the zoning rules in your location. 

Business owners are strongly encouraged to obtain zoning approval before signing a lease. Alternatively, you can sign a conditional lease where the lease is not binding until zoning approval is obtained.

How Can I Find a Zoning-Approved Location?

Step 1: Find a Suitable Location 

Before applying for permits or licences you can talk to City staff to determine if your preferred location is a good candidate for zoning approval. 

Talk to City Staff

City staff are here to help you understand: 

  • if business will be allowed in your preferred location
  • possible locations that may be suitable for your business
  • which permits will be required

To speak with City staff, visit us at the Edmonton Service Centre. At the ticket kiosk, select Permits & Licenses. 

To make the most of your visit we suggest you bring: 

  • Your ideas for possible locations for your business.
  • Your ideas for business activities.
  • A site plan showing neighbouring businesses and parking. Tip: Ask your landlord for a site plan.
  • A floor plan showing  your proposed renovations. Tip: Use a ruler or graph paper to create neat and legible drawings.
  • You can find sample site plans and floor plans here.

Please note: 

  • We suggest you reserve up to two hours for your visit, as you may need to speak with multiple City staff members. Wait times vary daily, and can be up to 30 minutes during peak season (March-September).
  • City staff will provide limited information during your visit based only on the details you provide. Additional information about your project will be communicated during the course of application review.
  • City staff cannot advise on matters related to provincial regulations.
  • You can contact Small Business Support for help with refining your business idea.

Alternatively, you can use the Zoning for Business Guide to:

  • Determine whether your preferred location is a good candidate for zoning approval.
  • Learn how to find the zoning rules that apply to a specific location.
  • Find zones in Edmonton that may allow your business to operate.

Step 2: Obtain Zoning Approval 

The first step to obtaining zoning approval is to apply for a business licence

Note: You do not need to sign a lease or occupy the location in order to apply for a business licence. 

Upon reviewing your business licence application, City staff will advise if: 

  • Your business will need to apply for a development permit to obtain zoning approval. A development permit is the document which provides City confirmation that your business can operate in your location.
  • Your business already has zoning approval and therefore you do not need to apply for a development permit.

Next Steps 

After obtaining zoning approval you are ready to apply for permits. 

Most business will require: 

  • Building Permit - Ensures renovations or equipment installations are designed and built to be safe
  • Trades Permits - Required for heating and ventilation, plumbing, gas, and electrical work
  • Sign Permit - Installing permanent exterior signs 

You can talk to City staff to understand which permits will be required prior to opening your business. 

Need Help?

Contact the Small Business Support team for support with finding a location and obtaining permits and licences. 

More Information About Zoning

What is a “Use”?

A use is a defined activity in the Zoning Bylaw that is allowed or prohibited in certain locations, and is therefore restricted to occur in specific zones. 

The Zoning Bylaw lists over 100  uses such as:

  • Bars and Neighbourhood pubs
  • Restaurants
  • Nightclubs
  • General Retail Stores
  • Convenience Retail Stores

Businesses often encompass activities that are classified under more than one use. 

For example, a microbrewery serving food and alcohol would have the following uses:

  • Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries 
  • Restaurant

A comprehensive list of uses is located in the Zoning Bylaw Matrix

Permitted and Discretionary Uses

Permitted uses are business activities that are likely able to operate in the zone. If your business activity is listed in a zone’s permitted uses, you will still need to apply for a development permit (zoning approval) to obtain City confirmation that your business can operate in this location. 

Discretionary uses are business activities that may be able to operate in the zone. After you submit a development permit (zoning approval), City staff will initiate a process to determine whether your business will be permitted to operate. 

See the Zoning for Business Guide to learn how to find the permitted and discretionary uses for a specific location.

Change of Use

A development permit is required to approve any proposed business activities that will result in a change to the use which was previously approved at the location. 

The Zoning Bylaw lists exceptions when a development permit is not required to change a use. Talk to City Staff to understand whether a development permit will be required for your location. 

A development permit to change the use may be required for each example: 

Existing businesses:

  • A cafe would like to start serving alcohol.
    • The current use is Specialty Food Service and the proposed change of use is Restaurant.
  • A 50-seat restaurant would like to seats 200 patrons.
    • The business is located in a zone which specifies restaurants under 100 patrons are a permitted use, and additional capacity is a discretionary use.
  • An auto body shop would like to perform engine repairs.
    • The current use is General Industrial and the additional proposed use is Automotive and Equipment Repair Shops.

New businesses: 

  • A former convenience store is changing to a nail salon.
    • The current approved use is Convenience Retail Stores, and the proposed use is Personal Service Shops.
  • A former store is changing to a walk-in clinic.
    • The current approved use is General Retail Stores and the proposed use is Health Services.
Other Rules and Regulations

Zoning is one of many municipal rules that limit activities and buildings in a location. 

Other rules include overlays, use classes, etc. To understand all the rules that apply to a location we suggest you talk to City Staff or review the Zoning for Business Guide.

For More Information

Edmonton Service Centre

2nd Floor, 10111 104 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB  T5J 0J4
Hours of Operation
Monday to Friday
8am to 4:30pm

Contact Us Online 

In Edmonton: 311
Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311

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