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City Businesses



C I T Y   O F   R E A DI NG,   PE N N S YL V A NI A


READING, PA 19601-3690

(610) 655-6284


Starting a Business

Quick Step by Step Guide

This is a brief step by step guide to the most basic requirements of operating a Business in the City of Reading and offers tips and resources to help entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting a new business. All the below steps are required to be completed to a get an approved Certification of Occupancy for your Business.

Step 1: Obtain a Zoning Permit

Zoning refers to permitted uses on parcels of land. There are various Zoning Districts designated throughout the City of Reading. Within each District, various types commercial and business activities are permitted or prohibited.

Click for a zoning map and list of permitted uses. It is against the law to operate a business without the required Zoning Permit. It is strongly advised that, before purchasing a property with the intention of establishing a specific type of business, or before establishing any business anywhere in the City,

you check with the Zoning Office . The City allows certain home-based business activities, and can issue a so-called 'zero impact' zoning permit where the conduct of a business will not result in traffic, parking requirements, or in-person business transactions. Zoning regulations also apply to signage used to identify or promote a business.


A Zoning Permit Application, for which there is a fee, can be obtained in the Zoning Office. You are also free to speak to the Zoning Administrator (an appointment can be arranged by calling 610-655-6326 if you have any questions about establishing a business at a particular location.



Step 2: Obtain a Business Privilege License

An annual Business Privilege License can be obtained at the City Hall, Service Center Room I-27, 815 Washington St. Reading Pa. 19601


Step 3: File an Annual Business Privilege Tax Return Most businesses are assessed a small fee based on gross receipts generated on the sale of goods and services in the City.

Detailed information is av ailable on the City’s W eb Site


Step 4: Obtain Historic District Approval

All persons or entities proposing to make exterior alterations or modifications to any building, structure, sign or premises within any designated historic district, shall apply to the Preservation Officer for a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) prior to obtaining the required Building and Zoning Permits. A COA application must be completed for all building improvements including, but not limited to, all work that will affect the general design, arrangement, texture, material and

color of the exterior of a structure which can be seen from a public street or way within the Callowhill, Centre Park, Prince, and Penn’s Common Historic Districts and may be required to be completed for certain improvements in the Heights Conservation District.


This includes, but is not limited to the following: Painting; chemical cleaning; stucco or other applied textures; replacement or major repair of windows, cornices, trim or other nonstructural elements; signs; installation of a satellite dish, antenna or other modern device utilized to receive video programming signals, and other work affecting any building, structure, or premises.

All proposed changes require review and approval by the Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB). Proposed work that is to be undertaken in kind (no change to existing materials, design, or dimensions) and certain other work such as painting of exterior surfaces, may be approved at

Staff level. All applications for a Certificate of Appropriateness shall be in writing from all persons or entities, as described above, on a Certificate of Appropriateness application form provided by the Historic Preservation Officer and shall be submitted to the Historic Preservation Officer at least ten

working days before the regularly scheduled Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB) meeting.

The HARB meets the 3rd. Tuesday of every month. Before making alterations, please consult with

the Historic Preservation Officer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Step 5: Obtain Planning Approval


Once Zoning is approved, a subdivision / land development project would require Planning Approval. The requirements for a subdivision / land development plan preparation and submissions are detailed in the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance. Its Parts 4 and 5 detail specifically what needs to be shown on the drawing itself. Upon receiving a qualified


Application, the Planning Office will prepare a formal review detailing any necessary corrections, and schedule a review by the Planning Commission. The Commission typically meets on the the fourth Tuesday of each month, beginning at 7 pm.

Submission deadlines are ten working

days in advance; typically the second Tuesdays.


Stormwater management is more fully covered by the Stormwater Management Ordinance and considered by the City Engineer in the course of a plan review.

Planning Office can be contacted at 610-655-6443


Step 6: Obtain Building Permits – Building & Trades


Once Zoning, Planning and Historical is approved the next

step for Alterations to Existing Buildings and New Construction, Requires Building Permits from the City’s

Building & Trades

Division. The Division is involved in reviewing plans and approving permits for Building, Accessibility, Electrical, Plumbing & Mechanical Trades. Before making any alterations, check with Building & Trades by calling 610-655-6284.


Sprinkler and Fire Alarm plan reviews and permits are issued by the Fire Marshal Office and requires a separate submission submitted directly to them for their approval. Fire Marshal Office can be contacted at 610-655-6080


Step 7: Call for all Required Inspections – Final Certification of Occupancy.


Once all Building Permits are issued, it is the contractor / property owners responsibility to call for all required inspections, which include footings, foundation walls, slab on grade, underground plumbing & electrical, rough framing – electrical mechanical and plumbing, above ceiling, insulation, drywall inspections.


All Restaurants and grocery stores finals, requires a Health Inspection by the City of Reading – Property Maintenance Inspectors at 610-655-6214


Final Inspections requires all trades inspectors to come out at the same time, including the Fire Marshal. It is illegal to operate the business prior to the final issue of the Approved Certification of Occupancy and all of the above seven steps have been completed. For a Final Inspection by Building & Trades call 610-655-6284


One-Stop-Shop Meeting

Obtaining approvals for a new building, or alterations at an existing building, requires dealing with various agencies, and can be a complex and frustrating process. Because of the overlapping regulatory responsibilities and requirements, and to improve coordination among various agencies, the City offers a One Stop Meeting where representatives of Zoning, Planning, Building & Trades and Fire Marshal Office personnel come together to meet with a business owner who is planning major modifications or new construction (do not, however, be mislead by the name of this meeting, because virtually no building project ever requires only 'one stop' at City Hall). Meetings are held Thursdays, and appointments can be made through the Planning Office by calling 610-655-6443