How to Get a Retail Food License from the Health Department

You will need a retail food license if you are operating a restaurant, commercial catering business, food truck, push cart, retail bakery, limited operation, seafood vending or shellfish reshipping/repacking business.

You need to take several steps before getting a license to operate a retail food business in Vermont. The process from start to finish may take about 30 days. You might need to contact other agencies to get permits during this process, which may make the process take longer, so please plan accordingly.

  1. If you haven't already, determine which license you need, and review the regulations for that license category. Find specific information if you are opening a home-based food business.

  2. Fill out and mail the application and license fees 30 days before opening.

  3. A health inspector will contact you to discuss your plans and schedule an opening inspection, usually within 10 business days. Contact a public health inspector if you have questions about the inspection.

  4. Contact other state and local agencies as needed. Search for a wastewater permit or contact a DEC specialist if you have questions about wastewater permits.

  5. Complete an opening inspection. You are approved to begin operating after you pass an opening inspection and have all permits from other agencies in place. The license will be mailed to you within 10 business days.

In rare cases, a license is not required. Learn more about license exemptions

Materials for You

Apply for a Retail Food License Español

Need to renew your license? Find out how to renew your license online

Information for shellfish reshippers and repackers

Businesses that purchase shellfish and either process or break the product down into small lots for wholesale or retail operations should apply for a shellfish reshipper/repacker license.

Read the Requirements: Shellfish Sanitation Rule

Apply for the Shellfish Reshipper/Repacker License   Español

What you need to know about Specialized Processing Methods

Retail food service businesses that use Specialized Processing Methods must apply for a variance and/or prepare and follow a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan before using these processing methods. Specialized Processing Methods may include smoking and curing food, reduced oxygen packaging of food, and acidification of food. 

Read the requirements and apply: Specialized Processing Methods

Download HACCP Templates

Information for Shared Kitchens and Pop-Up Kitchens

The link below has answers to some frequently asked questions about using shared kitchen space and holding "pop-up" events. If you still have questions, contact your public health inspector

Read the Shared Kitchen and Pop-Up Kitchen FAQs

More resources for you
Title Description
Boil Water Notice Guidance for Food Establishments Guidelines outlining temporary methods that must be followed in order to continue food service operations when a Boil Water Notice is issued
Consumer Advisory Sign  Sample sign to warn of the potential health risks from eating raw or undercooked foods
Electrical (Power) Outage Guidance Guidance for food establishments on what to do when there is a power outage
Handwashing Poster Printable handwashing sign to post in restrooms
Poultry Inspection Exemption Vermont law allows licensed restaurants to serve uninspected poultry under certain conditions. Know the requirements and submit the necessary paperwork prior to serving uninspected poultry.
Retail Food Employees Training Resources Educational materials in multiple languages for retail food employees
Americans with Disabilities Act and Service Animals: Frequently Asked Questions Read for more details about service animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Americans with Disabilities Act and Service Animals: Requirements This publication provides guidance on the term “service animal” and the service animal provisions in the Department of Justice's regulations.
Stool Samples Video on how to provide a stool sample as part of a public health investigation into a food-borne illness
Universal Recycling Law and Food Donation Resources Read up on Act 148: Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law to see how food service establishments are affected by the new law.
Log Sheets Print these food safety log sheet templates for use in your establishment. 
Chicken Liver -- Resources for Illness Prevention  Find information from the USDA on food safety risks and outbreaks associated with chicken livers, and guidance for industry and consumers. 
Cook Chicken Liver Like It's Chicken (It Is) Proper cooking to prevent illness: an infographic for chefs, cooks and caterers. 
Guidance for Food Establishments for Re-Opening After Flooding Follow these steps after your facility or food stock is damaged due to flooding or power outages. 
Specialized Processing Methods Requirements and application for using Specialized Processing Methods like smoking and curing, reduced oxygen packaging, and acidification. 
HACCP Plan Templates  Use these templates to help develop your HACCP Plan. 


Frequently Asked Questions
Are licenses transferable? Does the facility need to be re-inspected if ownership changes?

A Health Department license is not transferable if ownership changes. A new application and fees are necessary if there are any changes to the legal ownership of an establishment.

Who is my health inspector?
I only operate seasonally. Do I have to pay the full license fee?

Yes. Health Department licenses are valid for one year, and we do not prorate license fees.

Do I need a food handler’s certificate to work in a restaurant in Vermont?

A food service worker must be able to demonstrate knowledge of food safety and sanitation. It is recommended that the Person In Charge (PIC) receive some type of food safety training in order to train employees and demonstrate food safety knowledge.

How many seats can I have in my restaurant?

 Seating capacity is determined by the VT Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on the wastewater permit for the building. Contact a Permit Specialist at DEC with questions or to make changes to the seating capacity of your establishment.

How many bathrooms do I need?

One bathroom is required for seating capacity of 25 or less. At least two bathrooms are required for seating capacity of 26 or more.

What other government agencies should I contact?

Use the Guide to Opening a Food or Lodging Establishment to find contact information for other government agencies involved in the opening of a business.

Watch the video below to learn about how workers can stop foodborne illness.

Contact Us

Food & Lodging Program

108 Cherry St., PO Box 70 

Burlington, VT 05402-0070

Phone: 802-863-7221 or 800-439-8550 (toll-free within Vermont)

Fax: 802-863-7483

Email: [email protected]

Find the public health inspector in your area

Last Updated: May 17, 2023