How To Open A Business In Cleveland Heights

Interested in opening a business in Cleveland Heights? With over 500 small locally-owned small businesses and “main street” style commercial districts, Cleveland Heights is the perfect location to call home for a wide variety of businesses. Opening a new business can be both exciting and stressful. The Economic Development Department is here to walk you through all the necessary steps to bring your business to Cleveland Heights.

First Steps

Before finalizing your decision to open a business in Cleveland Heights, it is recommended to take the following steps:

  • Site selection – finding the right location is one of the most important components. Please visit our Available Properties page to see a current list of properties that are for lease/sale.
  • Business planning – this is also the ideal stage to develop and finalize your business plan. The Cleveland State University Small Business Development Center at the Heights Library on Lee Road offers free technical assistance, including business plan development and financial planning.
  • Reach out to our Economic Development Department, 216-291-2617, to discuss your project and potential ways the City can assist. This is also the point to verify that your business is a permitted use in the location or locations being considered.

Required Approvals

Once you have a site identified and a business plan ready to go, businesses need to:

  • Complete RITA’s blue Business Registration form and the Business Operation Permit application available in the Planning & Development and Building Departments at City Hall. Those forms are also available on the City’s website.
  • Take the blue RITA Business Registration form to the RITA Income Tax Department located at City Hall. They will give you a signed sheet to return to the Building Department.
  • Approval from the Planning Department and Building Department is required before your Business Operation Permit application can be reviewed/approved. The Planning Department should be consulted at this time to confirm the business is a permitted use.
  • Any new work or change of use requires stamped/sealed Design Professional plans. Construction of walls, plumbing, electrical, heating or fire suppression will require four sets of plans. Please note: any space not including new work may also require stamped/sealed Design Professional plans, including floor plans and occupancy loads. Please consult with the Building Department, 216-291-4900, to discuss requirements specific to your use and specific location.
  • Once you have approval from the Planning and Building Departments, you may now submit your application to the Inspections Department with the required $100 fee.
  • Any additional building permits or approvals through the Planning Department will include additional fees.
  • After payment, a Business Maintenance inspection appointment must be arranged at the Inspection Office at City Hall.
  • The Maintenance Inspector will go to the building at the mutually agreed time and inspect for normal maintenance items, such as missing outlet covers, holes in the walls, electrical, plumbing and heating issues, etc.).
  • The business and building owner will be sent a list of any violations that must be repaired. Minor violations must be repaired within 90 days. Serious violations must be repaired immediately.
  • You must arrange for a final inspection. If all items are complete at that time, the Business Operation Permit will be issued. YOU MAY NOT OPEN YOUR BUSINESS UNTIL ALL VIOLATIONS ARE APPROVED.


  • Contact the Cuyahoga County Health Department for a food license at 216-201-2000.
  • Business Operation Permits are required to be renewed with the $100 fee each year (due on December 1 for the following year). Renewal letters for the following year are mailed to existing businesses in the fall.
  • Your project may require additional approvals through the Planning Department, including approvals for exterior changes to the building (including signage) through the Architectural Board of Review, conditional use permits specific to your type of business (examples include fitness related businesses, animal related businesses, and outdoor dining permits) through the Planning Commission, and any required zoning variances through the Board of Zoning Appeals.

If you have questions regarding any of these steps/approvals, please contact the Economic Development Department, 216-291-2617, for assistance.