Guide to Opening a Business in Downtown Santa Monica

Business License and Fees

Do you have a Santa Monica business license yet?



  • Every business (even if it is a branch of an existing business) must register for a City of Santa Monica Business License. Apply online here.
    • Estimated time: minimum of 5 days
  • The business will pay a minimum tax when it begins operation. After the first year of operation, the business will pay an actual tax based on gross receipts for the first year of operation, minus the amount paid when the license was first obtained. Each year after, the business license must be "renewed" by paying the tax, which is based on gross receipts from the past year.  
  • Small businesses (business making under $40,000 in gross receipts per year, food trucks, and several other categories) can claim a small business exemption.

What other fees will you have to pay as a business?

  • Assessments
    • A retail business that falls within the borders of Ocean Avenue, 7th Street, the Santa Monica Freeway, and Wilshire Boulevard, must pay the Central Business District assessment, which is 1/15th of 1% of taxable sales for each six-month period, for a maximum fee of $1,000 per year. The fee is collected semi-annually by the City's Business License Department (for a business operating January to June, the fee is payable October 10th each year, and July to December is payable on March 10th each year.). The funds go to Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. and are used for activities that support and promote retail in the area.
    • Businesses that fall within the centerlines of Wilshire Boulevard on the north, Fourth Court on the east, Broadway on the south, and First Court on the west must pay one times the amount they pay for their annual business license tax. Non-retail businesses may choose instead to pay a fee based on a square footage calculation: $0.18 x square footage x 12. For either calculation method, the maximum payment is $31,610.23 (fiscal year 2018-19). This fee is paid concurrently with the business license tax. The funds go to Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. for supplemental operations and maintenance in Downtown.
  • Depending on your lease, you may also be responsible for additional fees.
  • This site can provide an estimate of total permitting costs for your project.