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Businesses

Access to tools and resources that 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

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.

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 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.

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.

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, such as:

  • For-profit service contractors that receive $10,000 or more from the City in a 12-month period; Non-profit service contractors that receive $75,000 or more from the City in a 12-month period
  • Recipients of City leases, concessions, or franchises (if they have 25 or more employees and $350,000 or more in annual gross receipts)
  • Recipients of financial aid (cash or non-cash assistance from the City of more than $100,000 in a 12-month period. Sub contractors or sub-tenants of the above with $50,000 or more in annual gross receipts;
  • Other public agencies, which receive contract(s) for $10,000 or more from the City in a 12-month period.

The Living Wage is adjusted annually. As of 2016, the Living Wage is $16.51 per hour. 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

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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