Business Answers About Licensed Facilities
Restaurants and Eating Places
On this page:
- Do I need a license to operate a restaurant or other eating place?
- How do I apply for a Department of Health and Human Services license?
- How much does a license to operate a restaurant or other eating place cost?
- How soon can I open?
- Who is my district health inspector?
- How do I request an inspection?
- How soon can I get an inspection?
- Does the facility need to be re-inspected again if ownership changes?
Do I need a license to operate a restaurant or other eating place?
A Department of Health and Human Services license is required for:
- any place where food and drink is prepared and served;
- any place where food and drink is served to the public for consumption on the premises or for takeout;
- catering establishments;
- establishments dispensing food from vending machines;
- establishments preparing food for vending machines that dispense foods other than in original, sealed packages.
Some examples include:
- hotels, motels, and boarding homes;
- restaurants, mobile eating places, coffee shops, cafeterias, short order cafes, luncheonettes, grills, tea rooms, sandwich shops, soda fountains, bars, cocktail lounges, and nightclubs;
- roadside stands;
- industrial/factory feeding establishments;
- private or public institutions routinely serving food such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and correctional facilities;
- retail frozen dairy product establishments; and
- airports, parks, theaters, and vacation camps.
If you are operating a bakery, wholesaling food, processing food, selling mostly prepackaged foods, canning, or making home food items, you will need a Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry license. Learn more.
How do I apply for a Department of Health and Human Services license?
You may download an application or call the Health Inspection Program's main line at 207-287-5671 for a hard copy.
The application requires you to provide information about the business owner and the proposal. You must provide a copy of a water test if you use a well as a water supply, and a copy of your septic system's design if you are not on a public sewer; and provisions for food preparation and storage, a menu, and floor plan.
How much does a license to operate a restaurant or other eating place cost?
Please refer to the fee table located within the application.
How soon can I open or how soon do I get my license after an application is submitted?
Once the Health Inspector has given approval for you to operate your establishment, within 30 days of receipt of a complete application, if there are no outstanding issues, the Health Inspector will inform the Licensing Clerk to issue your license. This generally is within a week once the Health Inspector informs the Licensing Clerk.
Who is my district health inspector?
You may call the Health Inspection Program main line at 207-287-5671 to find out who the inspector is for your town.
How do I request an inspection?
Once your application has been submitted, your district health inspector will be in contact with you to set up a pre-operational inspection.
If you need a routine inspection, you may contact the district health inspector directly.
How soon can I get an inspection?
This depends on the Health Inspectors schedule as inspections are prioritized. Once the Health Inspector has completed your inspection and given approval to operate, you may operate your establishment. You do not need to wait for the license as your inspection with the approval of the inspector is written on the report. You will generally receive your license within a week after approval. By statute the Health Inspection Program shall issue a license within 30 days of receipt of a complete application, if the establishment is found to comply with rules adopted by the Department.
The facility was recently inspected with previous owner, does the facility need to be inspected again if ownership changes to me?
The Health Inspector will make that determination based on how well he or she knows the establishment, history, and if you are making renovations or changes to your menu.
Who do I speak with if I have technical questions about the requirements to operate my restaurant?
Your district health inspector can assist you with these questions. You may call the Health Inspection Program main line at 207-287-5671 to find out who the inspector is for your town.
Are licenses transferable?
No. Health Inspection Program licenses are not transferable.
What other requirements should I be aware of?
Other regulations which may affect operation of an eating place include, but are not limited to, the Maine Food Code; the Subsurface Wastewater Disposal Rules; the Drinking Water Rules; the Life Safety Code; and the Internal Plumbing Rules; Fire Marshall's Office; and Liquor Licensing.
You should also check with your local municipal officials to see if there are local zoning issues or permits that you must obtain before operating your establishment.
How do I become a Certified Food Protection Manager?
The Department accepts three nationally recognized Certified Food Protection Manager courses that have been approved by the Conference of Food Protection. Please visit our website to obtain CFM courses offered in the state.
You may also call the Health Inspection Program's main line at 207-287-5671 to obtain information on Certified Food Protection Manager courses in your area.
Where do I obtain food safety handouts?
Food safety posters and policies are available on our web site or you may call the Health Inspection Programs main line at 207-287-5671 to obtain copies of our food safety handouts.
Can I make foods to sell from my home?
No, not unless you have a separate commercial kitchen. Download our home catering policy for more information.
Where can I find the Maine Food Code?
The Maine Food Code can be downloaded or we can mail you a hard copy. Download a copy of the Maine Food Code.