Why is it difficult to open a business in Philadelphia?

Philly is known for many good and bad things. On the bright side, Philly is home to cheesesteak and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Not so bright, but Philly is known as home. Too many murdersA stubbornly high poverty rate, and an overly burdensome regulatory environment that impedes business creation and economic growth.

We found a link between poverty rates and the difficulty of doing business in Philadelphia.Recent questioner report In a nutshell, “Philadelphia is ranked as the worst US city to do business with high taxes and awkward regulations. Most major cities face similar complaints, but Philadelphia. Delphia is not particularly welcomed by newly ported businesses, scholars, business owners, and public policy professionals, helping to water Philadelphia as the poorest metropolis in the country. “

Business details in Philadelphia

Is it really hard to open a small business in Philadelphia? And how does this process stack up with other big cities like New York?

To answer these questions, we sought to understand the city’s requirements. I pretended that I could be the owner of a seated family-style Italian restaurant and followed the steps set by the city to do what it took to open my door to the customer. This is what I learned.


  1. I went to the Philadelphia Department of Commerce home page..
  2. I”Business and self-employedMove the tab to the top of the page.
  3. I”Start a businessIs displayed in the left sidebar. Immediately I saw three additional tabs. Search for location and zoning information; Trade licenseAnd Business permit, permit, approval. So far, so good!
  4. These resources provide some industry-specific details about getting your business up and running. After understanding the outline, “Register your business“Tab.
  5. At the top of the page, it says: The city provides detailed resources for business owners and those planning to launch new businesses.Please refer to Business service site You can know in detail. “
  6. I decided that I needed to learn more, so I said, “Business service site“Tab.
  7. The business services site welcomed the following encouraging message: “This is a one-stop shop for resources to plan, launch and manage your business. We are a city built by entrepreneurs. Your success is our success.” Wow!
  8. Click the first of the three tabs that appear. “plansThe tab details Philadelphia’s business regulations, how to obtain taxpayer numbers for business income and receipts, how to plan your business, and legal resources.
    1. To get a Business Income Tax (BIRT) ID, I was linked to this page from this site HereIt’s self-explanatory and confusing, but when I clicked File or Pay Now, I saw “Apply for a PIN” in the left sidebar. To apply, you will need to enter your SSN, email address and Philadelphia tax account number.
    2. But how do I get a Philadelphia tax account number? Do I already have one? Hmm. Luckily when I googled “Philadelphia Tax Number Registration” This explanation page It came out of the city’s Revenue Department.That page was linked to me Application form..
  9. Then go back to the home page of the business service site[起動する” タブ。
  10. ここで、具体的にどのような事業を始めたいかを聞かれました。[Food & Drink]Click the tab, then[Restaurant/Bar]Click the subheading.
  11. I”Start of food related businessSubheadings listed under “Required”. The following seven steps are listed to help you launch a food business in Philadelphia.
    1. Check with your licensing and inspection department to make sure your location is properly zoned for your intended business.
      • To complete this step, I first read the Ministry of Health PDF It provides step-by-step instructions for each of these steps. In this zoning part of the process, the first step is to look at the city’s zoning map and zoning code.
      • However, the two hyperlinks in the PDF did not work. It’s frustrating.
      • So, when I googled “Philadelphia Zoning Map”, the first result was that of the city. Atlas mapping toolHere, I searched for the address of my restaurant to access zoning information and history. The important thing here is to make sure that the desired zoning classification is allowed at this particular address.
      • But which zoning classification / category wants to be my restaurant? To understand this, I have the Ministry of Health PDF See §14-602 in the zoning code. The hyperlink for that zoning code doesn’t work (* insert an eyeroll emoji *), so if you search for “§14-602 Philadelphia zoning code” on Google, This link In section 14-602 as my first result. There, you can scroll through the relevant tables to find out what zoning categories restaurants can fall into.
      • Ministry of Health PDF gives me Application for zoning / use registration permit from the Permit Inspection BureauThis link works.It also made me a long time Checklist Materials and information that you need to have at hand to apply for a permit, including approvals from all or part of the following departments: City planning committee such as “Façade change in the center city management area” (?!), Landscaping around the parking lot, application for wireless service, etc. For signs that extend 12 inches or more from the property, the Art Committee. Fairmount Park Committee; Water Department.
    2. Discuss facility planning with the Food Protection Department of the Ministry of Health.
    3. hand in Plan examination application With the Food Protection Agency. This is an important step.
      • The cost of submitting an application depends on the size of the company. For example, a planned review fee for a facility under 1,000 square feet is $ 375. For facilities between 1,001 and 5,000 feet, the fee is $ 875.
      • After reviewing the plan, the Food Protection Agency will mail or email the plan review worksheet and rate assessment to those who will become owners within 30 business days. The worksheet will tell you if you need additional information. (This process can be done quickly for an additional fee.)
      • As part of the application, it is necessary to submit site plan, facility plan, sanitary structure facility information, electrical system information, lighting equipment information, piping system information, toilet room information, equipment design and construction information, equipment installation information, ventilation. There is. Information, waste and recycling information, menu and food handling information.
      • If my plan is reviewed and approved, I will undergo a pre-operation inspection that costs $ 190.
    4. Obtain a food safety certificate from Philadelphia City Food Facility staff.
      • You can find an employee food safety certificate application ($ 30). Here..
      • The certificate is valid for 5 years.
      • To apply, you must first complete a food safety training course and include the course certificate in your application materials. You can find a list of city-certified food safety training course providers. Here..
    5. Respond to Food Protection Agency feedback from pre-planned reviews. Schedule and pass the facility inspection.
    6. Apply for and receive a commercial activity license required for all Philadelphia City businesses from the License and Inspection Office.
      • Click here for the permit application homepage Here..
    7. Obtain the appropriate food license for a particular type of food-related business.
  12. Link to Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare PDF It provides step-by-step instructions on how to complete each of these steps.
  13. You have returned to the “Restaurant / Bar” page. This is because two more requirements are listed under Required. (1) How to fill in and submit a recycling plan And (2) Recycling and Recycle Bin Requirements in the Food Business..

It took me two hours to find and aggregate this preliminary information. That was before you started filling out the form. I think that may require serious legal / bureaucratic help.

Is there a way to get it? I answered the phone to find out.

on the phone

  1. I called the Philadelphia Department of Commerce at 215-683-2100.
  2. A human, not a machine, picked up the phone. He was incredibly polite and willing to explain the process.
  3. His guidance identified important points from my online approach. He said the first step in establishing a food business is to submit. Plan examination application Joint research with the Food Protection Bureau of the Ministry of Health. The application requires information about the location of the place of business, storage facilities, types of food to sell, etc.
  4. One of the benefits of contacting by phone rather than online was the ability to ask follow-up questions and get tips. For example, he explained that the city is divided into service areas, and if you know in which section of the city you want to build your own restaurant, you can call the Department of Commerce again. The department then contacts the business service area manager for that service area to share specific tips and regulations for that service area. They can also connect me with specific resources such as over-the-counter improvement grant matching programs.
  5. Twenty minutes later, I hung up at least with a good feeling about what I needed to do.

Of course, this description does not include the inevitable delays, construction concerns, financial hurdles, or other logistics to actually get your business on track. It also does not include the real-time frustration of dealing with multiple city departments, each with its own rules. It will add time and money to do business in Philadelphia.

Comparison of Philly’s process and NYC’s process

Obviously, getting approval to start a business in Philadelphia can be time consuming and frustrating, especially for first-time business owners and transplanters. How does the Philadelphia process overlap, for example, the New York City process?

The answer is:

A Google search for “starting a business in New York City” found the first two non-advertising results. Overview About setting up business processes in New York from NYC.gov Personalized step-by-step guide toolThe New York City Government provides an interactive, online, personalized tool that guides you through all the information you need to get your business up and running and jump over all regulatory boundaries.

Even that could be easier if both Philadelphia and Big Apple follow the advice of the Manhattan Institute. Small Business AgendaWe’ve removed most of the barriers to opening a business and created a true one-stop that aspiring entrepreneurs can get and do everything they need to open a door in one fell swoop.

Header photo Tim Moss Holder on Unsplash

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