Location & Zoning

Last updated on December 4, 2014

Before you commit to purchasing a space or signing a lease, you should consider several factors: municipal zoning restrictions, renovations you may be required to make, and reviewing your lease with a lawyer or legal representative.

Check zoning restrictions

Contact: Your municipal hall
Timeline: 1-5 business days

Before you purchase or sign a lease for your restaurant location, contact your municipal planning or zoning department to ensure that you will be able to conduct your type of business in those premises.

Different zoning requirements may exist for different types of restaurants. For instance, a space which housed a cafe may not be zoned for a full-service restaurant which serves alcohol. Confirm zoning, even if the space was a restaurant previously. Never expect zoning to be changed to suit your business.

Factors to consider when reviewing the zoning of a space include:

  • permitted uses;
  • hours of operation;
  • hours for serving alcohol;
  • permitted outdoor serving or patio areas;
  • washroom facilities for your intended capacity; and
  • adequate parking.


Consider Required Renovations

Contact: Your municipal hall
Timeline: Varies

Renovations can be costly and time-consuming. It is important to consider any necessary construction before you purchase or sign a lease. Even if you are not the buildling owner, you may be required to pay for any needed construction.

Renovations may be required for many reasons, such as (but not limited to):

  • bringing your space up to building or electrical code standards;
  • changes to water and sanitary piping;
  • changes to heating and cooling systems;
  • installing increased ventilation;
  • kitchen renovations; and
  • accessibility updates, such as installing ramps or wider doorways.

Ask your municipal hall about any changes that may be required to bring the space up to code, and the application process and timelines.

Renovations will require a viable floor plan, which must be approved by your health authority and your municipality before you begin construction. A draftsperson or architect can produce these plans for you. For more information on obtaining approval of your plans, see Health Operating Permits and Municipal Permits and Licences

Structural changes will require building permits from your municipality. For more information, see Municipal Permits and Licences.


Review your lease

Before you sign a lease, you may wish to have a lease lawyer, notary, chartered accountant, or other legal representative review the document. This can alert you to any unusual requirements or clauses.

It is sometimes possible to get a “subject-to” clause as part of your agreement. This might specify that buying or leasing a space is subject to meeting city zoning requirements, or the approval of a Business Licence.