Permitting is all about safety. The city, county and state issue building codes, health codes and construction standards designed to ensure the safest environment for employees, patrons and the citizens of Los Angeles. This means protecting against fire, structural failures, improper waste disposal, unauthorized sale of controlled substances (e.g., alcohol), and much more.
Your new restaurant will likely live in a repurposed restaurant or require the alteration of an existing office or retail space. In the permit world, the latter is known as “change of use” and requires additional steps, fees and time.
In either scenario, you’ll want to make alterations to the interior and exterior to accommodate the look, feel, function and flow of your restaurant. These changes are known as tenant improvements.
What are Tenet Improvements?
Generally speaking, tenant improvements will include:
- Architectural work: Demo existing fixtures, install new fixtures, finishes.
- Structural work: Storefront beams, support for new mechanical units going on the roof, columns.
- Mechanical (aka HVAC) work: Roof top units (RTUs), ductwork, diffusers, thermostats.
- Plumbing work: Restroom fixtures, floor drains, drinking fountains.
- Electrical work: Lighting outlets, switches, panels rack (shelving permits), storage or sales racking in stores.
- Fire sprinkler work: Sprinkler piping, sprinkler heads (which may be required by the Fire Department).
- Fire alarm work: Low voltage fire alarms, alarm placement.
- Signage: Exterior signs including business logo and restaurant name.
For any of these improvements, you’ll be required to secure permits and approvals from various governmental agencies, including: building and safety, health, fire, planning and zoning, and more (see the full list of LA permitting departments here).
In addition, restaurant tenant improvements will almost certainly require the involvement of the:
- Health department
- Bureau of Sanitation Services
- ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control)
As you dive into this resource, and as you work through the permitting process, there are terms you'll need to know. The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety put together the following glossary:
- Food Service Establishment (FSE): A facility engaged in preparing food for consumption by the public such as a restaurant, commercial kitchen, markets, food processing plants, caterer, hotel, school, hospital, prison, correctional facility, or care institution, including bakeries, donut shops, public and private schools.
- Existing Food Service Establishment (FSE): A facility with valid permits and/or Certificate of Occupancy, established prior to August 5, 2001 and has been operating continuously by the same owner.
- Express Permit /E-Permit: A permit that can be obtained without required plan check review and can be obtained through the website www.ladbs.org or at LADBS Express Counter.
- Permit Valuation: A value determined by LADBS for proposed new construction of a FSE or an alteration of existing FSE for determination of Industrial Wastewater permit and pretreatment requirements.
- Grease Removal/Retention Device: A plumbing appurtenance or appliance that is installed in a sanitary waste system to intercept non-petroleum fats oils and greases (FOG).
- Gravity Grease Interceptor: A gravity grease interceptor is a large (500-4,000 gallon capacity) tank which is generally located outside and placed in a location which is easily accessible for maintenance and repair (Building permit in addition to a plumbing permit required).
- Hydro-Mechanical Grease Interceptor: A hydro-mechanical grease interceptor is a much smaller tank (20-50 gallon capacity), which is generally located inside the kitchen area adjacent to fixtures being served.
- Potable Water Using Device: An appliance, device or appurtenance that utilizes potable water and is listed and approved by a recognized listing agency.
- Regular Plan Check: Plan check process for plans which require a more extensive review and time.
- Counter Plan Check: Plan check process which offers applicants the convenience and expedience of the same day plan check.