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What Permits & Licenses Do You Need to Open a Salon?

salon staff talking on phone


By Ashley Smith SALT's Administrative Manager + Business Coach

If you’ve decided to venture off on your own and open your own salon, first thing’s first: Congratulations! This is a huge step, and something you should be incredibly proud of. Owning your own salon means that you get to turn your vision and your dream into a reality.

It also means that you will need to start thinking about a lot of things that you may never have thought of in the past. Where will your salon be located? What will your salon culture look like? What will your front desk experience be like? What about your retail strategy? All of these are important questions.

But before you start thinking about any of those, it’s important to first make sure that you’ve got all of the necessary licenses and permits that you will need to run a business. Without these, you could find yourself in trouble with the law, or unable to open in the first place. So take the time now to do it right!

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Below, we discuss the importance of getting all of the right licenses and permits, and highlight some of the most critical ones that you should be thinking about.

Importance of Salon Permits & Licenses

Getting permits and licenses is a critical part of opening any business, and isn’t something that you can skip out on. If you don’t have the appropriate licenses and permits you may find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit from an unhappy client. You can also be fined, forced to close up shop, or have your dream taken away from you before you’ve even gotten started. In serious cases, you might even face jail time (though this is admittedly rare).

Salon Business Licensing Requirements

Before diving into the specific licenses and permits that you should be aware of, we just want to point out that every state and locality have their own licensing requirements. The exact licenses and permits that you need in one state, town, or city might be different from those that you would need if you were to open your salon somewhere else. Do your homework, and consider all of these factors when deciding where you want to locate your salon.

Not sure where to turn to figure out which licenses and permits are necessary? Some options include:

  • City Hall
  • Your local Chamber of Commerce
  • Your state’s Chamber of Commerce
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
  • Other salons in the same state/city where you want to be located

Without further ado, here are the key licenses and permits that you need to open and operate your salon.

1. Cosmetologist License

If you’re already working as a stylist, then chances are good that you’ve got this one covered. 

Most states require hair stylists to attend some form of beauty school or receive some form of formal training. Typically, this training culminates in a license that shows you are allowed to operate in a given state. Often, this license will need to be renewed every couple of years.

You can find a full list of states and their cosmetology licensing requirements here

2. Salon Retail Seller Permit

Do you intend to sell retail products in your salon? You should be considering it, because selling retail products can be one of the most lucrative parts of the entire business! But it also means that you will need to apply for a seller’s permit.

Salon retail license

A seller’s permit is essentially a permit granted by the state that allows you to sell products or services and collect a sales tax from it. It can sometimes be called a resale permit, permit license, reseller permit, resell permit, reseller number, state tax ID number, or resale ID. 

If you operate in a state that collects sales tax, then you will likely need to apply for a retail seller permit. Check with your state to determine the exact process and requirements. Certain counties or cities that levy their own taxes may also require additional local retail permits. 

3. Salon Business Operation License

A business operation license, also simply called a business license, is exactly what it sounds like: A license that allows you to legally operate a business in your state. In order to operate virtually any business, you will need a business license, and that includes a salon.

This page is a great resource that can help you find the specific steps for applying for a business license in your state. 

4. Certificate of Occupancy

When you purchase or rent a space, you will need a certificate of occupancy. This document outlines what the structure is used for, what the structure is suitable to be used for, and ensures that the building complies with all of the necessary building codes. Without a certificate of occupancy, you could find yourself sued by your city or town.

Because specific requirements will vary from town to town, you should start off by asking at city hall what steps you need to take to get a certificate of occupancy. 

5. Building Permits

Do you plan on doing any sort of major renovation to your space? Whether you simply want to knock down a wall to open up your space, tear up the floor to lay some plumbing, or you’re hoping to knock down an existing building to start over from scratch, you will likely need a building permit to get the ball rolling.

salon building permit

These permits ensure that the work you plan to do is allowed by the town, suitable for the space, and safe to pursue. You must apply for a permit before you begin work.

Again, you should check with city hall for more information about the specific requirements around building permits in your area.

More than Paperwork: It’s About Relationships

It’s easy to think that getting all of these permits and licenses is just a whole bunch of bureaucratic noise, but the truth is it’s an important part of becoming a business owner. If you go about it the right way, you can use the process to build relationships with key figures in your town and state, which you never know might come in handy. 

For example, we suggest you get to know people who work in the town hall, health department, fire marshalls, and building officials. Not only will it help the process; these people may also have some suggestions or ideas that can help you achieve everything more smoothly. 

Are you ready to take the next steps to open your salon? We recommend you sign up for our Salon Business Bundle, which will teach you everything you need to know about creating a salon culture that fits your vision, how to conduct a pre-screening consultation, how to create a cancelation policy, and more. As you get closer to launching your business, enrolling in our Salon Consulting Program can be a great way of spotting any weaknesses in your plan to resolve them before launch.

Download our Salon Location Tip Sheet for free advice on selecting your salon space!

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