This article is an overview of key laws regarding licensing and registration that affect small business. For more details or specific guidance seek professional legal advice.

One of the first tasks for any new business is to obtain licenses. If you are an ongoing business you may need to make changes that require new licenses or permits. There are types of businesses that you need to get a license in order to operate legally. This operation mainly relates to the sale of alcohol and tobacco and gambling operations. Other forms of licenses can be required for individuals operating in different sectors.

The license

To operate any business you need a license from your local authority. These include transport firms, computer, and software, hospitality, retail, health and fitness, media and telecommunication. Here are some example business and their licenses:


If you want to open a childminding business or day-care nursery, you must register with (whichever is applicable):

  • The Office for Standards in Education in England
  • Care and Social Services Inspectorate in Wales
  • The Care Inspectorate in Scotland
  • The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland

Transport services:

Businesses which operate public-service vehicles must apply to their local council. The Financial Conduct Authority issue’s a license before a business:

  • Lend money,
  • Arrange credit,
  • Collect debts,
  • Issue credit cards,
  • Offer debt adjusting
  • Counseling services
  • Operate a credit-reference agency


You must apply for a licence to sell alcohol in a shop, pub, club, nightclub, restaurant, hotel or gaming establishment. Rules apply to regulated entertainment. Learn more at the GOV.UK website. Businesses involved in food and drink are also affected by environmental health and food hygiene regulations.


Applications for a type of license is made through the local authority in the area where the business is located. Forms can be obtained from the local authority office or downloaded from the website of the Department for Culture, Media & Sport. A personal licence lasts initially for 10 years and can be renewed for further periods of ten years. Subject to the authorities (police, local authority) being satisfied as to the suitability of an individual to continue to hold a personal licence.