Denver Business Licensing Demystified: Map Your Legal Pathway to Success

By: Space Selectors   December 22, 2019

Sharing is caring!


Being home to over 50,000 small businesses, which employ over one million people, Colorado is a great place to start a business.  Currently, the Centennial State ranks as the fourth-highest state in the United States for the amount invested in local businesses.  Also, the cost of living in Colorado is generally less than other states. Additionally, Boulder and Denver combined offer considerable startup resources, and the opportunity to raise a great deal of capital.  These indicators and factors show that you are making a wise decision to start your business in Denver. Therefore, it is important to fully understand the Denver business licensing process. Here, you can map your legal pathway to success.

To begin, it is important to note that not every business in Denver requires a business license.  When you visit the Denver Business Licensing Center’s website, you will find an alphabetical list of applicable business types that require a license in Colorado.  There, you can quickly scroll through the list, just to confirm whether you need a business license or not.  If you do not need one, there may be other steps you must take, but that will save you a little time and money.  Some examples of business license types include wholesale and retail food operations, emergency and non-emergency vehicle operation, body artists and their facilities, boarding homes and childcare companies, guard services, pedal cabs and taxi or limousine drivers, and peddlers of various products.

Now that you have read the highlights and advantages of starting a business in Denver, let us map your legal pathway to success.  So, read on to demystify the entire process.

It all starts with a business plan

Business planning is both formal and informal.  Your business plan can be formatted professionally, written on napkins, or something in between.  So, what is the difference between your formal and your informal business plans? There’s an important use for your formal business plan – attainment.  They are used to attract potential partners and investors and to secure a business loan. In this case, your formal business plan will be used to present your business to applicable government agencies when you attain legal clearance to start your business in Denver.

So, what should your formal business plan include?

  • The problems that your business startup will solve
  • Your awesome solution to those problems
  • The size of your market-share opportunity
  • Your detailed, fact-supported, five-year cash-flow forecast
  • Thorough market-research data to back it all up

Be sure to write it in the active voice vs. the passive voice. This will exhibit your authority. Then, make sure you keep it concise. Always remember, your formal business plan is your golden ticket to growth when you’re ready.  Therefore, put in the time and do it right. Strong due-diligence up front will save you stress and even defeat down the road.

Your informal business plan

Now let us discuss your actual business plan – the one you will use for your daily progress.  This plan is only for you and your company. As such, it contains your strategies and your goals.  It also contains your thoughts and ideas. Evolution is inevitable, so keep it up-to-date to uncover and avoid pitfalls as you proceed.

Select a good location

When selecting location within Denver, be sure to pick one that is appropriate for your business.  Some examples of factors to consider are the following:

Location (The most important factor)

Always keep in mind that choosing the location for your business in Denver is your most important job.  If you know the saying “location, location, location,” you understand that location stands alone as being the upmost important factor when determining where to launch your business in Denver – it is more important than most people realize.  So never forget that the success of your business depends on locating your ideal property in Denver.

Type of structure and infrastructure

Whether you are planning to launch a restaurant, set up an office space, or open a retail storefront, the type of business you will operate greatly affects the type of retail property in Denver you will choose.  To explain, if you plan to set up an office space, which is the simplest type of property in Denver, make sure you do not pay for more features than you really need. Then, consider foot traffic and light rail access, signage placement, and supplier access, which are some of the most important items to consider.  Finally, ensure you have adequate parking by selecting a location with enough land for the parking space required.

Available parking

Speaking of parking, there are various parking considerations to accommodate both your customers and your staff.  To begin, your business plan should detail the number of vehicles you expect during peak hours of operation.  As such, you need to know your maximum expected capacity and the maximum number of employees that will be parked at your business.  Then, add ten or twenty percent to be safe. Lastly, even if your customers will primarily arrive on foot, be sure to account for some vehicle parking for customers who prefer to drive to your location and for your employees.

Determine the zoning and permit requirements

Zoning is the process of dividing regions within a city into classifications like “residential” and “commercial,” to show examples on the highest level.  In addition, zoning will specify a variety of required and conditional uses of properties within that zone. It may also indicate the size and dimensions of land area as well as the form and scale of buildings and other structures.  These rules are put in place to guide urban growth and development.

A zoning permit is always required prior to receiving a building permit for construction.  Use the following contact information to inquire and apply for a zoning permit:

Development Services

01 W. Colfax Ave., Suite 203


720-865-3000 (voicemail for zoning questions)

A zone-use permit grants the owner of a lot, building, or structure permission for the requested use of the land.  Use Commercial Zoning within the Community Planning and Development to apply for zone use and construction permits in Denver.  You can find the applications and details about what must be submitted at the Commercial Zoning website.  Be sure to select the appropriate item under Zoning Use Permits for your type of business.  Please note that if the business license you seek requires a zone-use permit, check with Commercial Zoning first for approval of the land usage before taking the time to submit an application to the Department of Excise and Licenses.

Register the name and structure of your business

Search for business name availability first.  Incfile has a free tool for this.  Then, register your business name and structure at:

Colorado Secretary of State

1700 Broadway, Suite 200

Denver, 80202



Register your business with all required tax authorities

The types of taxes that may be levied on your business include income tax, employment tax, sales tax and city business taxes.  Be sure to register your business with Denver’s Treasury Division, Colorado Department of Revenue and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to obtain the necessary tax information.  Also, consider using a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) to help you with this to ensure that you do not miss anything.

Below, you will find exactly where to register your business at each level of government:

  1. City: To register for city taxes, file returns and manage tax accounts, visit Denver’s eBiz Tax Center at www.denvergov.org/ebiztax.
    Denver Treasury Division
    201 W. Colfax Ave., Atrium 720-913-9400
  2. State: For state taxes and to obtain a Sales Tax ID number, visit the Colorado Business Express website, www.colorado.gov/cbe.
  3. Federal: All forms of structure, except sole proprietors with no employees, must obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), which is also your federal tax ID number. For more federal tax information: Internal Revenue Service 800-829-1040 www.irs.gov

Your responsibilities as an employer in Denver

If your business will have employees, you must register as an employer.  Your business will be responsible for:

  1. Possible additional taxes
  2. Withhold, matching and submitting employee withholdings
  3. Obtain workers’ compensation insurance
  4. Follow other employee eligibility regulations

The Colorado Business Resource Guide includes a helpful section about employers in Colorado.  Be sure to visit www.coloradosbdc.org and click on“Resources.”  Then, Visit the Colorado Business Express website: www.colorado.gov/cbe to uncover the unemployment insurance requirements.  Finally, register your business with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment in order to establish your unemployment insurance account.

Once you are ready to begin hiring staff, the Denver Office of Economic Development’s Workforce Development Services team can help you find qualified applicants at no cost.  To learn more about workforce services for employers, call 720-913-1999 or go to www.denvergov.org/workforce.  Keep in mind that employers are required to report newly-hired employees to the Colorado State Directory of New Hires.  Find them at www.newhire.state.co.us.

Obtain permits or licenses based on your business type

To determine whether your business requires special permits or licenses, contact:

Denver Excise and Licensing

201 W. Colfax, Suite 206 Dial 3-1-1


In addition to city permits and licenses, check with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies regarding any state requirements:

Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies

1580 Broadway, Suite 1350



Obtain your building permit (if required)

You will be required to obtain a building permit if there is a change of occupancy as defined in the Denver Building Code.  Also, it will be required if you decide to update the interior. This elective work must be done to current building codes. If there is a change of occupancy, ADA compliance is required, which may require changes to the building.  Please visit the following website for more information:  www.denvergov.org/developmentservices.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real Estate


Related Post

What is the Denver Commercial Real Estate Market 2020 Forecast?
By: Space Selectors   February 19, 2020
Top Five Commercial Real Estate Marketing Strategies
By: Space Selectors   December 22, 2019