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Businesses

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 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

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.

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

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

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.

Any person or company doing business in the City of Sonoma, whether ongoing or one-time only, needs to apply for a business license.  Licenses are renewable annually.  Download the business license application; you can determine your license amount using the chart on page 2.  You pay your Business License Tax when you register for a  Business License.   For more information, contact the City Finance Department at (707) 938-3681.

To sell alcoholic beverages, you need a liquor license. California has four types (3 for full liquor and 1 for beer & wine only). 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 us and we’ll let you know.
 
You can also get temporary licenses for events. Please complete the form and email it to events@SonomaCity.org, it required to collect the signatures from the property owner and the Police Department.

Through a contract with the City, the Sonoma Chamber 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.

 

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 Executive Director Patricia Shults 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.

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).

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.

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.

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 City of Sonoma’s Living Wage Ordinance (Sonoma Municipal Code Section 2.70) was adopted in 2004. The Living Wage applies to a 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 from the City.  Visit our Living Wage page to learn more.

The Living Wage is adjusted annually.  An employer may receive a credit toward the wage for amount spent providing health benefits to employees. The ordinance does provide for certain exemptions, such as volunteers, certain types of temporary employees, employees under age 21 who work for a nonprofit for after-school or summer employment, and others. The ordinance also includes provisions for the City Council to make waivers to the ordinance, if certain findings can be made.

Although City construction contracts are subject to the Living Wage, they are typically also covered by State prevailing wage law, which is higher.

Additional requirements and limitations apply. For the full provisions of the ordinance, see Section 2.70 of the Sonoma Municipal Code available at this link: http://www.codepublishing.com/ca/Sonoma/index.pl.

Questions regarding the City of Sonoma Living Wage Ordinance should be addressed to the City Manager’s Office at 938-3681. Link State prevailing wage law to: http://www.dir.ca.gov/OPRL/PWD/index.htm

Zoning restriction in the city vary by property address. To find out the specific zoning designation of an address in the City of Sonoma please reference the city-wide mapping system. Sonoma’s Geographic Information System (GIS) 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. For further questions, the Planning Department may be reached at (707)-938-3681.

The current sales tax rate in Sonoma is 8.625%. More information can be found on the California State Board of Equalization website.

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