City of Vancouver to reduce nearly 600 different business licences into just 88 types

May 29 2023, 7:13 pm

Currently, the City of Vancouver has a total of 570 types of business licences, a figure that has grown from decades of simply tacking on new types.

That figure will be whittled down to just 88 business licence types starting next year.

Vancouver City Council recently approved City staff’s recommendations to simplify and streamline the wide range of business licence types.

The new business licence system will start on April 1, 2024, for new licence applications. Existing business licence holders will see their licence renewed under the existing system for 2024, after the annual expiration date of December 31, 2023. Then starting in 2025, all existing licences will be renewed under their new type.

For example, currently, there are 25 different types of licences and fees for general contractors, including separate licences and fees for framing, flooring, stucco, insulation, air conditioning, tiler, irrigation, roofer, painter, landscape gardener, and plant/tree removal. All 25 of these different licence types would be simplified into just one licence type and fee.

Such changes will effectively reduce the need for some businesses to hold multiple business licences.

City Council will determine the new streamlined business licence fees later this year.

“Streamlining of licence types, along with updated definitions and modernized terminology, will increase clarity for local businesses, improve data analysis for staff and external researchers, and better future proof the License By-law to enable new and evolving business types,” reads a City staff report.

This includes eliminating obsolete business licence types, such as teenage disco clubs and pen pal services. The City states the 1969-enacted Licence Bylaw and 1986-enacted Vehicles for Hire Bylaw, which regulate most kinds of business licensing, have become “overly unwieldy from years of incremental updates.”

In fact, the large number of licence types found in the City of Vancouver is significantly more than other cities in BC and Canada, according to the municipal government.

In 2022, the municipal government issued about 53,000 business licences and generated $20.6 million in licence fee revenue. City staff stated the forthcoming changes are not expected to impact revenue.

About 85% of the licence applications in 2022 were considered simple and can be issued within the same day they are processed. But the remaining 15% are more complex and lengthy due to health, safety, and nuisance concerns, which require permits and clearances from other City departments, Vancouver Police Department (VPD), Vancouver Coastal Health, and/or the provincial government’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. Types of businesses that have more complex applications include restaurants, nightclubs, bars, pubs, and cannabis and liquor stores.

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