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Restaurant & Food Vendor Licensing
chefs working together in a commercial kitchen

Restaurant & Food Vendor Licensing

The Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) require that complete plans and specifications be submitted, reviewed, and approved by the local public health department before any construction, remodeling, and/or taking over an existing facility can begin on a retail food establishment or a license can be issued. Information about the requirements for constructing and operating a retail food establishment can be found in the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules & Regulations.

Review of facility and food preparation plans is required for the following types of food facilities and activities:

  • Restaurant
  • Grocery sales
  • Catering
  • Preparing food for retail sale
  • Mobile unit (food truck or push cart)
  • Temporary event
  • Special event (farmers market)
  • Sale of pre-packaged foods

If you plan to wholesale food, operate as a cottage food vendor, or prepare food containing marijuana, please review the requirements.

Contact the Boulder County Food Safety program if you are unsure if you need a license.

Preparing to Submit a Plan

All plan documents must be submitted electronically. Printed documentation will be accepted on a case-by-case basis.

Depending on the type of facility and activities planned, the documents in the table below may need to be completed and uploaded as part of the plan. The documents will be accessible from within the application form, but it may help to have them ready to upload before beginning the application form.

Possible RequirementsDetails
Menu UploadMenu food items that you will be serving to the public must be provided as either an upload or text. Price and recipes are not required.
Examples of Floor PlansFloor plans are required for commissaries, restaurants, mobile units, and special events (e.g., Farmers Market) and must include details about:
  • Equipment (e.g. refrigerators, walk-in coolers, prep tables etc.)
  • Plumbing (e.g. hand sinks, warewashing sinks, mop sinks etc.)
  • Storage areas
  • Customer and employee restrooms
  • Bars and service areas
Equipment Installation TableEquipment details must include:
  • Make/model number
  • ID number on plans

Architectural drawings that include equipment details may be submitted in lieu of the equipment installation table form.

Finish ScheduleA finish schedule is required for all areas of the facility or mobile unit and must include:
  • Floors
  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Floor-wall junctures

Architectural drawings that include finish details may be submitted in lieu of the finish schedule.

Plumbing FixturesPlumbing fixture details must include:
  • Number of fixtures
  • ID number on plans

Architectural drawings that include plumbing fixtures may be submitted in lieu of the plumbing fixtures form.

WarewashingComplete the form(s) that correspond with the warewashing equipment planned for your facility.
Water HeaterComplete the form(s) that correspond with the water heater planned for your facility. If different water heaters supply separate fixtures, describe which water heater(s) will supply which fixture(s).
Commissary AgreementA commissary agreement may be required for:
  • Mobile units/push carts
  • Special events
  • Caterers
  • Retail manufacturers

Completing and Submitting the Plan Review Form

It will take approximately 15 – 60 minutes to complete the plan review form, depending on the complexity of your plan.

The form must be completed in one session (it cannot be saved and returned to).

You will need:

Application for Plan Review

Application Fees

The application fee is payable when the plan is submitted.

The fee ranges between $330 – $680.

The fee:

  • Depends on the type and complexity of the plan
  • Is determined based on the information you provide in the plan review form
  • Is payable by Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, or check

Payment via Credit Card

If paid by credit card, there is an additional fee of $.75 plus 2.25% of the total cost.

Payment by Check

  • Submit all required information
  • Send check with amount due to:
    • Boulder County Public Health
      3450 Broadway
      Boulder, CO 80304

There is no fee for K-12 schools, or for non-profit organizations serving populations with limited incomes (serving solely people who are food insecure).

Review Process

After you have submitted the plan review form, a plan review specialist will review your plan and notify you within 14 business days to let you know if the plans were approved or if more information or changes are needed.

  • Approved: If the plans are approved, you must contact the Plan Review Specialist at least 5 business days before your planned opening date to schedule the opening inspection.
    • Your approval notification will include the amount of your annual license fee. The fee varies depending on the size and type of operation.
    • The license fee is due by check at the opening inspection.
  • Not Approved: If the plans are not approved, you will be required to submit revised plans. Review of revised plans can take up to an additional 14 business days. Missing or incomplete information is the most common reason that plans are not approved.
  • Change: If your plans change after they have been approved, you may be required to submit revised plans and pay additional fees.

Other Required Permits, Licenses, or Inspections

Other permits may be needed for you to operate. All required permits must be obtained before a retail food establishment license can be granted. Contact the following agencies to ensure that you have taken all needed steps and obtained all required permits.

Services May Include:

  • Building Permits
  • HVAC/REF Electric Inspection
  • Plumbing Inspection
  • Structural Inspection
  • Liquor Licensing
  • Ventilation Hood Inspections
Building DepartmentPhone
Boulder County303-441-3925
City of Boulder303-926-1881
City of Lafayette303-665-5588
City of Longmont303-651-8332
City of Louisville303-335-4584
Town of Erie303-926-2781
Town of Jamestown303-449-1806
Town of Lyons303-823-6622
Town of Nederland303-258-3266
Town of Superior303-381-2028
Town of Ward303-459-9273

City/Town Permits for Mobile Food Vending

Definitions of Commonly Used Plan Review Terminology

TermDefinitionRequirements
Restaurant or grocery A retail operation that stores, prepares, or packages food for human consumption. This food may be consumed on or off the premises.• Colorado Retail Food License
• Plan Review
CateringProviding a contracted, prearranged number of meals that are prepared at a licensed retail food establishment for service and consumed at the same or another prearranged offsite location and not available for individual purchase.• Colorado Retail Food License
• Plan Review
*Licensed retail food establishments might be approved to cater without obtaining a separate catering license
Mobile Unit (or push cart)Mobile food vendor that reports to and operates from a commissary and is readily moveable; it is a motorized wheeled vehicle; or a towed (or pushed) wheeled vehicle designed and equipped to serve food.• Colorado Retail Food License
• Plan Review
Commissary Agreement
Temporary EventSingle community event or celebration that operates for a period of time of not more than 14 consecutive days and may include town celebrations, fairs, and festivals.Approval from BCPH and local jurisdiction
Temporary Event VendorVendors providing food to the public at a temporary event, using tent/table set up or mobile food vehicle.• Vendor Verification form
• Temporary Event License or Mobile Unit License or other approved scenarios
Temporary Event CoordinatorIndividual or organization responsible for the management of the temporary event.• Coordinator application
• List of all food vendors
Special Event (i.e. Farmers Market)Organized events or celebrations held more than three times a year, including regularly scheduled series of events at venues such as sporting arenas, concert halls, flea markets, street fairs, and farmers markets. Approval from BCPH and local jurisdiction
Special Event Vendor (i.e., Farmers Market)Vendors providing food at Special Events using tent/table set up or mobile food vehicle.• Vendor verification form
• Special Event License or mobile unit license or prepackaged license or wholesale registration
• Plan Review (commissary agreement, commercial equipment)
• Approval from BCPH
Licensed CommissaryA commercial kitchen with a current retail food license that has allowed the use of their facility by the retail or wholesale food operator.• Colorado Retail Food License
• Plan Review
Cottage FoodsLimited types of food products that do not require refrigeration for safety to be sold directly to consumers without licensing or inspection and may be prepared in a home kitchen. (link to CDPHE webpage)• Food Safety Training
• Required labeling
• CO Cottage Food Act requirements
ProduceAgricultural product sold in its raw, harvested state. Good agricultural practices (link)
Plan ReviewApproval process prior to construction, extensive remodel, obtaining retail food license, storing, preparing or providing food.Plan Review application
RemodelingA facility is extensively remodeled when changes are made to kitchen space, bar, or food storage areas that affect change in layout; change in equipment (beyond replacing like for like); changes in operation and changes that require obtaining a building permit as required by local authorities, i.e. plumbing.Plan review application
Wholesaler or Food ManufacturerFood that is indirectly provided to consumers, including selling your food to retailers, shellfish dealers, salvage operations, grain storage facilities, and industrial hemp operations.Registration as an approved wholesale or manufacturing operation
Prepackaged shelf stable foodFood or beverage that, when stored under normal conditions without refrigeration, will not support the rapid and progressive growth of microorganisms.Obtain from approved source, including Colorado Retail Food License, Wholesale Registration, or FDA Certification
Prepackaged TCS FoodFood or beverage that requires refrigeration to prevent the rapid and progressive growth of microorganisms.• Colorado Retail Food License
• Plan Review
• Commissary Agreement
Retail Food Manufacturer Food that is directly provided to consumers that is not already from an approved source.• Colorado Retail Food License
• Plan Review
• Commissary Agreement
State Sales TaxLicense issued by state government to allow businesses to legally collect sales tax and remit it to the local or state government.Colorado Department of Revenue
Building permitApproval issued by the designated government authority that allow owner or contractor to proceed with a construction or remodeling project, intended to ensure that planned project complies with local standards for land use, zoning, and construction.Local building/plumbing permit
Limited Retail Food ServiceFood retailer that prepares or serves food that does not require the following: 1) food that does not require time or temperature control for safety, 2) providing self-service beverages, 3) offering prepackaged commercially prepared food and beverages requiring time or temperature control, 4) only reheating commercially prepared foods that require time or temperature control for safety for retail sale to consumers.Local building/plumbing permit
Time/Temperature Control for Safety Food (TCS) [also known as Potentially Hazardous Food]Food that requires time/temperature control for safety (TCS) to limit pathogenic microorganism growth or toxin formation.• Colorado Retail Food License
• Plan Review
Processed FoodFoods that undergo slicing, dicing, cutting, chopping, cooking, mixing, grinding, smoking, drying, packaging, canning or other procedures that alter the food from its original state. Mixed greens, honey, and salsa are examples of processed foods. Agricultural products further processed and not sold in its raw harvested state.Change of owner plan review
Food containing marijuanaFood containing marijuana that has greater than .3% deltra-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is considered an adulterated product and is not permitted to be produced in retail food establishmentsRequirements vary
Hemp/CBDA hemp product is a finished product containing hemp that: is a cosmetic, food, food additive, or herb; for human use or consumption; contains any part of the hemp plant, including naturally occurring cannabinoids, compounds, concentrates, extracts, isolates, reins, or derivatives; and contains a deltra-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of no more than .03%.Approval from Colorado Department of Revenue, state, and local agencies
Owner ChangeProcess in which a different person or business entity takes ownership of a licensed retail food establishment and doesn’t make changes to menu, equipment or facility layout. Change of owner plan review
Sampling at eventsSamples are considered to be “a bite or a swallow” of a food product and even though they are small in quantity it is still very important to follow good food handling practices and to serve safe food.• Approved source
• Vendor verification form
K12 or nonprofit entityIncludes schools providing food to children, Kindergarten -12th grade, or facilities serving people who are food insecure• No fee license
• Plan Review
Commercially Designed EquipmentEquipment that is certified or classified by an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accreditation certification program, such as the: 1) National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), 2) Underwriters Laboratories (UL) sanitation standards, 3) Environmental Testing Laboratories, Inc. (ETL) sanitation standards, 4) Baking Industry Sanitation Standards Committee (BISSC) 5) or other comparable design criteria as approved by the Department during a standardized equipment review.Plan Review
Self Contained mobileA mobile food vendor that is approved to operate without a commissary and is not connected to fixed utilities such as water, sewer, and electricity, and is required to report to an approved servicing location for sewage disposal and water.• Colorado Retail Food License
• Plan Review
• Operational Plan (including potable water and sewage disposal)
Approved sourceFoods obtained from commercial suppliers that are inspected by the proper health authorities (state or local health departments, USDA, FDA).• FDA certification
• Wholesale registration
• USDA approval

Contact Us


Food Safety Program

Main: 303-441-1564
Submit a question


Location

Boulder
3450 Broadway
Map & Directions
Hours: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F