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With commercial property, cross your Ts and dot your L&I’s

6/23/2015 | Real Estate Blog

So you want to open a restaurant in Philadelphia. You have a clear idea of what the restaurant will be about, of what diners will experience from the moment they walk in the door. You have the perfect location picked out: an old row home in an up-and-coming neighborhood. You plan to turn the parlor into a bar that will transport your customers back to the era of sidecars and gimlets. You will use the upper floors for dining and events. It’s perfect.

There are a lot of details to attend to before you serve your first customer. You not only have to set up the business, but you have to acquire the building and then renovate it to match your concept. A quick check with the city’s Licenses & Inspections Department, though, leaves you with a troubling piece of information: Turning a home into a business involves more than a simple real estate transaction.

Just looking at the plan as described in the first paragraph, a real estate attorney would raise a few fundamental questions.

Zoning: Just a couple of months ago we talked about Philadelphia’s zoning code, specifically in reference to new construction (I found the perfect property. Should I buy it and start building?). The code must be taken into consideration for a change in use as well, and if the row home has been residential up to now, the restaurant idea cannot move forward without first doing some zoning research.

  • What is the property zoned for now?
  • Will the client need a variance to operate a restaurant there?
  • How extensive will the renovation of the row home’s interior be?
  • Will there be any new construction or demolition of any garage or outbuilding on the property?
  • What are the plans for parking at the location?
  • What about signs?

Other licenses and permits: New construction is not the only category of project that requires a building permit. We’ll get into more detail in our next post.

Source: City of Philadelphia, Licenses & Inspections Department website, accessed June 10, 2015