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Keep your business moving forward.

Grapes aren't all that's growing in Sonoma.  We've been named one of the "Best Places to Start a Business" in Northern California, and have one of the highest number of businesses per capita in Sonoma County.  Wine and tourism are our most well-known industries, but we’re also home to a diverse economy that includes an array of creative professionals, health services, specialty food producers, and start-ups of all kinds.

The City of Sonoma strives to maintain a business climate that supports the economic vitality of our community.  A key element is our contract with  the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce to provide outreach to our business community and programs that support business creation, retention and expansion.

Business FAQs

To avoid penalties, license fees must be paid by February 1 of each year. If payment is received after the delinquent date with a late or missing postmark – the payment will be considered late, penalties will be added and a balance due email will be sent to you.

The City has a formula business ordinance which places certain restrictions and requirements on chain and franchise businesses.  Learn more about the formula business ordinance and contact the Planning Department for more information.

The Sonoma City Council has adopted regulations prohibiting new vacation rentals, which were effective in early 2018.  Existing, licensed vacation rentals are allowed to continue, provided they meet updated operating standards.  Under the new ordinance, vacation rentals are no longer a conditionally-permitted in the Mixed Use and Commercial zones (new vacation rentals were already prohibited in residential zones).  An exception provides that new applications for vacation rentals are limited to those involving the adaptive re-use of a historic structure. Learn more on the vacation rental regulation page. 

Contact the Planning Department for details.

Yes, but there are some restrictions.  More information is available from the Planning Department.  A home occupation permit is required.

The Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce manages the City-owned business wayfinding signs located at the corners of the Plaza, using our program guidelines. Please contact the Chamber  at (707) 996-1033 for more information.  The winery directional signs throughout the Valley are managed by the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Association.

Yes. All businesses are required to pay the annual state-mandated fee. On September 12, 2012, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 1186 (SB 1186) into law. SB 1186 is intended to increase disability access, encourage compliance with construction-related accessibility requirements, develop education resources for businesses, and facilitate compliance with Federal and State disability laws.

From January 1, 2013, until December 31, 2017, cities and counties were required to collect a State mandated fee of $1.00 from “any applicant for a local business license or equivalent instrument or permit, and from any applicant for the renewal of a business license or equivalent instrument or permit.”

Assembly Bill 1379 was passed on October 11, 2017, which extends the assessment of the fee indefinitely and also the State-mandated fee from $1.00 to $4.00 from January 1, 2018, until December 31, 2023. The fee will go towards increasing disability access and compliance with construction-related accessibility requirements and developing educational resources for businesses to facilitate compliance with federal and state disability laws, as specified.

Many types of signs require a permit.  You can find links and additional information on our business signage page.  Contact the Planning Department for details.

No, businesses are not required to pay both business taxes. If services are provided, then the business tax would only be calculated based on the services, not delivery.

For example: a business delivers furniture to a new restaurant, assembles, and installs the furniture. The business license tax would be calculated based on category “A” / “B”, which is determined using the average number of persons employed during the previous calendar year.

Any person or company conducting business within the city limits of the City of Sonoma, whether ongoing or one-time only, is required to have an active business license. To apply for a business license, please download the business license application. You can determine the amount due for your license using the fee schedule listed on page 2.  Payment is due when you register for a  Business License and are renewed on an annual basis.   For more information, contact the City Finance Department at (707) 938-3681.

To sell alcoholic beverages, you need a liquor license. You can find information about buying a liquor license from the California Department of Alcohol & Beverage Control (ABC). The nearest local ABC office is in Santa Rosa. You can call them at (707) 576-2165. Your business may also need special review and approvals from the City of Sonoma. Contact the Planning Department and we’ll let you know.
You can also get temporary licenses for events.  More information can be found on our Special Events pages. Please complete the form and email it to  You are required to collect the signatures from the property owner and the Police Department.

This would be done through the County of Sonoma. Additional information and forms can be found on the County of Sonoma website.

Through a contract with the City, the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce provides one-on-one assistance to potential start-ups, giving you the resources and information you need to turn your idea into reality.  Visit their start-up page and contact the Chamber to set up a meeting.


Business Licenses are valid from January 1 through December 31 of each year. Businesses that start operating after July 1 are prorated.

Once a complete application/renewal is received and payment has been processed, the hard copy business license will be mailed to you in about 2 weeks.

The business license fee is based on the type of business. Please refer to the full business license fee schedule for a full list of fees. Business Licenses are valid from January 1 through December 31 of each year. Businesses that start operating after July 1 are prorated. To avoid penalties, license fees must be paid by February 1 of each year.

If the City does not have evidence of notification from you and records indicate your license was not inactivated,  then you must pay for last year’s business license, including penalties before you can obtain a license for the new year.

Yes, you do need a City of Sonoma Business License. Even though you are not serving local customers, your business is operating within the City of Sonoma.

There is no specific category for home businesses, so you would select the classification/category that is applicable to the services you provide.

For each motor vehicle used for the delivery of goods, wares merchandise, or tangible property within the City of Sonoma from a supply or stock outside of the City, the business license tax shall be calculated according to the following:

  1. Delivery for redistribution or resale: $44.00 for each vehicle
  2. Delivery of construction materials to job sites: $60.00 for each vehicle
  3. Delivery of goods to homes: $67.00 for each vehicle

If you are doing any kind of business out of your home, you must obtain a home occupation permit from the City of Sonoma Planning Department. Apply Online.

Yes! The City contracts with the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce for business assistance and economic development services.  For one-on-one assistance, contact the Chamber’s Executive Director at  707-996-1033.

FAST START Plan Check is a way to “fast track” the processing of your building permit application so you can get your project underway quickly. We recognize that for many projects, time is of the essence.  Using FAST START can significantly reduce the turnaround on your plan check, enabling you to get going faster.  There’s no additional fee for using the FAST START program.

Projects qualifying for FAST START at the time of initial application for a building permit will go to the front of the plan check line (immediately following any other FAST START plan check applications, of course).

To be eligible, your project must be submitted by a licensed architect, who utilizes the FAST START checklist to ensure that the project meets the program criteria and the submittal is complete. When City staff receives a qualifying FAST START application, we know that it is professionally prepared and comprehensive – which helps the plan check review go more quickly and smoothly.

If you’re a licensed architect, we’d be happy to meet with you to provide an overview of the FAST START process and answer any questions you may have.  For more information, contact the Building Department.

If your business plans involve a major remodel, expansion, or new construction within the City of Sonoma, you can request (or staff may suggest) a meeting with the Project Advisory Committee (PAC). PAC meetings are also strongly suggested for any new or expanded restaurant business.

At the PAC meeting, City staff  from various departments provide early-stage input on development projects at no charge.  It can prove extremely valuable in giving you and your architect or project manager a sense of the process, any studies that may be required (traffic, drainage, etc.), timelines, and potential issues associated with your project.  Staff can also assist with identifying the agencies and departments that can provide you with an estimate of their respective fees for your project.

Contact the Planning Department for more information.

The annual business license tax shall be based on the average number of persons employed during the previous calendar year (SMC 5.08). In this scenario, five employees would be used to calculate the business license tax.

The City of Sonoma’s Living Wage Ordinance (Sonoma Municipal Code Section 2.70) was adopted in 2004. The Living Wage applies to a very limited number of entities, and only if they employ more than six employees. These include the City of Sonoma itself and organizations that receive funding or financial assistance above certain levels from the City.  Visit our Living Wage page to learn more.

The City of Sonoma also has a local Minimum Wage Ordinance, which was adopted in 2019 and applies more broadly.  Learn more at the Minimum Wage page.

In the spring of 2019 the City Council adopted an ordinance regulating wine tasting facilities that includes limits on the total number and location of tasting rooms in the Plaza Retail Overlay Zone, requires a conditional use permit for new tasting rooms, and puts in place certain other requirements.  Learn more on the Wine Tasting Room Regulation page and contact the Planning Department for details.

Zoning restrictions in the city vary by property address. To find out the specific zoning designation of an address in the City of Sonoma, view the zoning map and contact the Planning Department for more information.  You can also reference Sonoma’s Geographic Information System (GIS) which provides instant access to property characteristics such as zoning, assessor’s information and flood zone designation, as well as city-wide aerial photographs. Note: This web-based service requires the use of the Silverlight plug-in.

A business license is a permit issued by a government agency that grants you the right to operate a business within their geographical jurisdiction.

The Sonoma City Council passed a local minimum wage ordinance in 2019.  Chapter 2.80 of the Sonoma Municipal Code establishes a minimum wage rate to be paid by Large Employers (26 or more employees) and Small Employers (25 or fewer employees) with annual adjustments.

Effective January 2023, the Sonoma minimum wage rate is $17.00/hour for large employers and $16.00/hour for small employers.

Effective January 2024, the Sonoma minimum wage is $17.60/hour for large employers and $16.56/hour for small employers (25 or fewer employees).

The annual schedule of wage rate increases can be found at the Sonoma Minimum Wage page, along with the official notice (poster) for Sonoma’s minimum wage which can be downloaded in English and Spanish.

The current sales tax rate in Sonoma is 9%. More information on sales tax rates by city and county can be found here.

Last updated April 26, 2021.

Business Licenses must be renewed annually. The City mails courtesy renewal notices in December for the following calendar year. It is the business’s responsibility to ensure their license is renewed on an annual basis prior to the due date.

Applications can be picked up in person at City Hall (No. 1, The Plaza, Sonoma, CA 95476) or downloaded from the City’s website. You also have the option of fully applying online. Once you’ve submitted an application online, you will receive an email with instructions on how to complete payment.

Anyone who plans on conducting business within the City of Sonoma is required to apply prior to starting a business.

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