Guide to Opening a New Business in Hoboken
“What do I do first?”
When a business is interested in opening in Hoboken, the first step is to identify a location where that use is permitted. Most commercial uses are permitted along Washington Street and in the City’s Central Business District. In residential districts there are more restrictions. A list of the permitted uses for each zone can be found in Hoboken’s zoning ordinance on the City’s web site via the Municipal Code link. You are also invited to call or stop by the City Zoning Office. The Zoning Officer will assist you in determining the zone of the property and if the business would be a permitted use.
Ideally the use would be permitted in the zone. When it is not, the business owner has the option of applying for a “use variance” from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The timeframe for this process varies and may take several months. It is important to build the extra lead time into your plan schedule.
The next step is to determine if alterations to the space are required. If so, architectural drawings will be necessary. A good architect is your best resource for local construction code requirements and can assist you in the approval and permitting process. Some site improvements may also require Planning or Zoning Board approval. Again, a good architect will be able to help you work through that process.
If no Board review is necessary, the business owner needs simply to apply with the Zoning Office for a zoning permit for the proposed use. This is to make sure that parking, signage, and any other site requirements are addressed. Turn-around time for a zoning permit is usually 1-3 days.
Please note that there are fees associated with zoning permits and board reviews. Each case is unique, so the fees may vary. A full fee schedule can be found on the City’s web site.
A permit is required prior to erecting, installing, painting, altering, or relocating any sign. This is part of the zoning permit process.
In Hoboken, signs that are permitted for businesses are generally wall signs, window signs, or awning signs, although other types may also be used. The size, type and other design restrictions such as lighting can be found in Hoboken’s zoning ordinance, a copy of which is available on the City’s web site via the Municipal Code link or from the Zoning Office.
Much of the City’s Central Business District (CBD) is also in the City’s Historic District. Therefore, any business located in the CBD that wishes to install a sign or alter the front façade of their site must obtain approval from the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) prior to obtaining a zoning permit. Applications for HPC review are available on the City’s web site or from the HPC Office.
Preparing the Property…
“Do I have all the permits?”
Once a zoning permit for the proposed use is approved by the Zoning Officer, the business owner must then go to the Building Department to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) or a Certificate of Continued Occupancy (CCO).
If the business owner wishes to do remodeling or construction, building permits may be required. You are invited to meet with the Building Department staff early in your design process to gain input on the code compliance of your plans.
Prior to construction, if demolition is occurring on the site, a pre-demolition baiting for rodents or insects may be required by the Health Department.
Once the construction is complete, inspections will be scheduled based on the type of work which was done; electrical, plumbing, fire and building. After a final zoning inspection the business may apply for a CO.
When no remodeling or construction is required the business owner may simply apply to the building inspector for a CCO inspection.
Some businesses require an inspection by the Health Department. Others require licensing by the City of Hoboken. Once all building inspections are complete, all other required licenses and/or inspections must be obtained before the issuance of either a CO or a CCO. No new business may open until they have received a CO or a CCO.
Please note that there are fees associated with CO and CCO applications and other Building Department functions. Additionally, each case is unique, so the permit needs and associated fees vary and are to be determined on a case by case basis.
Registering the Business
“What licenses are needed?”
The City requires several types of businesses to obtain a business license. The majority of licenses are issued through the City Clerk’s Office. Licenses are necessary to protect the safety and welfare of the public utilizing or in proximity to these establishments. Types of licenses and reporting include, but are not limited to the following:
- retail food businesses
- salons and barber shops
- dry cleaners and laundry facilities
- pet shops and grooming
- pool rooms
- spas and health clubs
- tanning salons
- garages and parking lots
- tree sales
The City’s Health Department requires all restaurants and retail food businesses to be licensed. As well, many types businesses are required to go through plan review with the Health Department in addition to any Building Department reviews and inspections.
“Where can employees and customers park?”
Hoboken can be a tough place to find a parking space. The City provides several parking options for local businesses.
Business owners and persons employed in Hoboken may apply for one of two business parking permit options at the Hoboken Parking Utility. A $200/year permit allows holders to park on-street in the “Permit Parking Only” zones (white sign) or at a discounted rate of $5/12 hour period in the City owned garages by participating in the Hoboken Parking Utility’s “Merchant Coupon” program described below. As an alternative, a free business permit option allows for discounted City owned garage rate parking using the “Merchant Coupon” program, but does not permit on-street parking. For permit requirements and additional details, please visit the Department of Transportation and Parking website.
Rather than take up a street spot that could be used by a customer, the City provides discount garage parking for employees of local businesses. At $5/day employees can park for up to 12 hours in Hoboken city garages. That’s less than it costs to “feed the meter” (which is illegal, by the way). Coupon books are available from the Hoboken Parking Utility located inside City Hall at 94 Washington Street.
Park & Shop Customer Coupons
If you are a registered Hoboken business, you can purchase validation coupons at 1/2 the face value to pass out to your customers who park in municipal garages. This system works just like the validation machines except you don’t need to worry about billing invoices being sent to your business by the Hoboken Parking Utility. “Park & Shop” coupons can be purchased by business owners at the Hoboken Parking Utility during regular business hours.
The City recently switched to a new Pay & Display meter system on Washington Street and surrounding areas. These meters provide more parking per block than single space meters and reduce down-time to service more customers. The meters have more payment options for the convenience of those utilizing this type of parking.
Being a Good Neighbor
“What else do I need to know?”
Businesses are responsible for cleaning the sidewalks in front of their establishments. Walks must be swept and/or washed daily. Snow and ice must be cleared from the sidewalk within 6 hours after each storm.
No refuse, recycling or other waste generated by a business shall be placed or stored on any public street or sidewalk. Waste for removal may be placed curbside 2 hours prior to scheduled pick up.
Merchandise displays are permitted in front of retail stores from which the goods originate. Displays are limited to a projection of 6 feet or 1/3 of the sidewalk whichever is less.
The City recently passed a new noise ordinance. Click here to view the full text. Following are some important items to note:
- Audio speakers are not permitted on the exterior of a commercial establishment.
- Noise originating from a commercial establishment shall not be audible at a distance of 25 feet after 10:00 p.m.
- Idling of vehicles is limited to 3 minutes. Delivery vehicle drivers should be made aware of this new statewide regulation.
Business alarms must be registered with the City of Hoboken Police Department: 201-420-2100.
Opening the Business
A helpful checklist
- Location chosen where business is permitted.
- Architectural drawings prepared for any planned alterations to the site.
- Signage determined and design prepared.
- Historic Preservation approval obtained.
- Planning or Zoning Board approval obtained.
- Zoning Compliance Certificate obtained.
- CCO inspection scheduled with Building Department if no alterations planned –OR– building permits obtained for renovation.
- Pre-demolition baiting conducted.
- Construction completed.
- Final inspections scheduled and held.
- Health Department inspection conducted.
- Business license(s) obtained.
- GRAND OPENING!