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Permits, violations & licenses

Get a Special Assembly Occupancy License

Service overview

A special assembly occupancy license is required for certain restaurants, bars, catering halls, nightclubs, and other gathering places.

You need this license if your business:

  • Offers social entertainment like dancing, live music, or DJs.
  • Has a lawful occupancy of over 50 people.

You don’t need this license if your business:

  • Only uses a strolling musician.
  • Has a dance floor that occupies less than 10 percent of the customer area.
  • Has a theater with fixed seating.

Who

Business owners and their agents can apply for this license.

You can’t get or renew this license if:

  • Your previous license at the location was revoked or deactivated within the last three months.
  • You are behind on filing or paying your City taxes.

Requirements

Other licenses, registrations, certificates

You also need to know the lawful occupancy of the business.

Zoning approval

You must provide proof of zoning approval.

Background check and tax clearance

You must complete a criminal background check through the City or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The business must also be current on all City of Philadelphia taxes.

Once your application has been accepted, the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) will forward it to:

  • The Philadelphia Police Department for recommendation of approval.
  • L&I’s Code Enforcement Unit for fire safety inspection.

Where and when

Online

You can apply online using eCLIPSE.

If you need help filing your application online, you can schedule a virtual appointment.

In person

You need an appointment to visit the Permit and License Center in person.

Permit and License Center
1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
MSB, Public Service Concourse
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Office hours: 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday

Offices close at noon on the last Wednesday of each month.

Cost

License fee
$207

A non-refundable fee of $20 is applied to the license fee. The balance of the license fee is due once your application is approved.

Renewal fee
$207

If you renew your license more than 60 days after the due date, you will be charged 1.5% of the license fee for each month since the license expired.

Payment methods and details

Accepted payment methods

Where Accepted payment
Online through the eCLIPSE application

(There is a $200,000 limit for online payments.)

  • Electronic check
  • Credit card (+2.25% surcharge)
In person at the Permit and License Center in the Municipal Services Building
  • Electronic check
  • Credit card (+2.25% surcharge)
In person at the Cashier’s Station in the Municipal Services Building

(Items paid at the Cashier’s Station will be mailed within five business days.)

  • Check
  • Money order
  • Credit card (+2.25% surcharge)
  • Cash

Checks and money orders

Check requirements
  • Make all checks and money orders payable to the “City of Philadelphia.”
  • The individual or company listed on the check must be listed on the application.
  • Personal checks are accepted.
  • Checks and money orders must have issue dates within 12 months of the transaction.
Reasons your check may be rejected

L&I will not accept checks that are missing depository information or are:

  • Unsigned.
  • Expired.
  • Post-dated.
  • Starter checks without account info.

Returned payment policy

If your check is returned unpaid for insufficient or uncollected funds:

  1. You will be charged a $20 fee for collection.
  2. You authorize the City of Philadelphia or its agent to make a one-time electronic fund transfer from your account to collect this fee directly.
  3. The City of Philadelphia or its agent may re-present your check electronically to your depository institution for payment.
  4. If the City is unable to obtain payment, the license, permit, or appeal application will be void.
  5. You cannot take any additional action under a permit until you have paid all fees.
  6. The permit or license will be revoked if the outstanding fees are not paid within 30 days.
  7. You cannot file or obtain additional permits until you resolve the outstanding debt.

Late license payment

If you renew your license more than 60 days after the due date, you will be charged 1.5% of the license fee for each month since the license expired.

How

You can apply for this license online using eCLIPSE or in person at the Permit and License Center.

Online

1
Upload all required documents and pay the application fee.

You must print and post the notice on all street-facing sides of your building and take photos of posting prior to submitting your application.

You must upload photos showing proof of posting with your application. The posting must remain on site for at least 30 days.

2
If approved by the Permit and License Unit, the application is sent to other departments for further approval.

The Philadelphia Police Department will provide its recommendation. L&I’s Code Enforcement Unit will perform a fire safety inspection and verify that notices are properly posted during the on-site inspection.

The total review process can take up to 45 days.

3
Once L&I receives a positive recommendation and passed inspection, you will receive a notice to pay the balance.

In person

1
Visit the Permit and License Center with all required documents and the application fee.

You must print and post the notice on all street-facing sides of your building and take photos of posting prior to submitting your application.

You must bring photos showing proof of posting with your application. The posting must remain on site for at least 30 days.

2
If approved by the Permit and License Unit, the application is sent to other departments for further approval.

The Philadelphia Police Department will provide its recommendation. L&I’s Code Enforcement Unit will perform a fire safety inspection and verify that notices are properly posted during the on-site inspection.

The total review process can take up to 45 days.

3
Once L&I receives a positive recommendation and passed inspection, you will receive a notice to pay the balance.

Renewal requirements

A Special Assembly Occupancy License must be renewed every two years. You can renew online through eCLIPSE or in person at the Permit and License Center.

To renew your license, you must be current on all City of Philadelphia taxes.

When you renew, you must post the notice on all street-facing sides of your building for a minimum of 30 days. You must upload or bring photos showing proof of posting on the building to the Permit and License Center.

L&I will forward your application to the Philadelphia Police Department for its recommendation of approval.


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