A Guide to Special Events with Merchandise Vendors

Special Events are organized gatherings usually taking place outside. These events include but are not limited to farmer’s markets, festivals, block parties, and fairs. Both event organizers and event vendors must obtain permits and/or licenses to be in compliance with city regulations. Each vendor handling merchandise of any type must be individually approved by the Department of Licenses & Inspections prior to selling goods to the public. Event organizers and all vendors must also have a Commercial Activity License.

The following guide outlines the compliance process for event sponsors/organizers and event vendors. It is important for event sponsors to familiarize themselves with all requirements to ensure that all participants are in compliance with city regulations. Contact information is at the end of the article if you have any additional questions.

Guide for Special Event Sponsors and Organizers

OFFICE OF SPECIAL EVENTS:

Our office, the Office of Special Events in the Managing Director’s Office, coordinates inter-departmentally and externally to encourage cooperation and collaboration around the city’s special events. Our office should be the first point of contact for organizers of special events that involve food, police, public streets or any other city department. As a first step, browse our website and applications tab. If you are submitting the Special Event Application, you must do so at least 90 business days prior to the event. If there will be food or beverage vending, sampling, or giveaways, you should also begin the approval process with the Health Department‘s Office of Food Protection at the same time (see below).

HEALTH DEPARTMENT, OFFICE OF FOOD PROTECTION:

For food vending of any type, please visit the Guide to Special Events with Food Vendors.

LICENSES & INSPECTIONS:

  1. Commercial Activity LicenseSpecial Event Sponsors are required to obtain a Commercial Activity License unless they are registered with the Revenue Department as a nonprofit.
  1. Farmer’s Market License: This license is required of any person who organizes, manages and operates a farmers’ market where growers and producers of horticultural, agricultural, baked goods or handmade products sell those products directly to the public on designated days and times in a designated Farmers’ Market. The application is available on the Public Services Concourse of the Municipal Services Building.
  1. Amusement LicenseThis form is required to obtain a license to operate a place of amusement. This includes but is not limited to a street fair or outdoor festival. Within this license are the sub categories of Amusement (annual), Amusement (device), Amusement (permit), Amusement (vehicular), Carnival, and Circus.

Guide for Vendors at Special Events

MERCHANDISE VENDORS

Each vendor selling, providing samples, or providing giveaways of merchandise of any type must be individually approved by the Department of Licenses and Inspections. Vendors must go through the special event sponsor to participate in an event. The event sponsor can provide information regarding deadlines, fees, or requirements for event participation.

DEPARTMENT OF LICENSES AND INSPECTIONS

Vendors that are not selling food or beverages should go directly to the Department of Licenses and Inspections to apply for the required licenses. All vendors are required to have a Business Privilege License as a prerequisite to all other licenses. Here are the licenses most common to vendors.

Commercial Activity License, Fee: $300 Lifetime, ($50 Annual) Any business operating in the City of Philadelphia must apply for a Commercial Activity License and tax account number prior to all other licenses.

Vendor License Application*, Fee: $300 This license required of those who offer merchandise for sale from a wagon, handcart, pushcart, newsstand, sidewalk or on foot. A license is required for any period from one day to one year. Food Establishment, Retail Non-Permanent Location is also required if food will be sold.

Motor Vehicle Vendor License*, Fee: $300 This license is required to offer goods for sale from a wagon, vehicle or conveyance. A license is required for any period from one day to one year. Food Establishment, Retail Non-Permanent Location is also required if food will be sold.

Center City Vendor License**, Fee: $300 This license is required for anyone who exhibits, displays, offers for sale or sells any goods, wares or merchandise from any stand while on the sidewalks of the City of Philadelphia in designated areas.

Neighborhood Vending District License**, Fee: $300 This license is required for sidewalk or street vendors within specific neighborhood business districts. Contact the License and Inspections Vending Unit for district boundaries (215) 686-2414.

Scales License, Fee $25 This license is required for the commercial use of a weighing or measuring device. There are four categories of scales. One license is issued for all scales at a location.

*Note: These applications are the same. On the application you will have to note which license you are applying for.

**Note: These applications are the same. On the application you will have to note which license you are applying for.

Contacts:

Managing Director’s Office
Office of Special Events
1515 Arch Street, 15th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19102
http://www.phlevents.org 
Phone: 215-686-3488
Drop-off Time: Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 3:30 pm
For personal consultations, call to schedule an appointment.

Department of Licenses and Inspections
License Issuance Unit
1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard Concourse Level Philadelphia, PA 19102
www.phila.gov/li
Phone: 311 or (215) 686-8686
Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am- 3:30pm
(Except for the last Wednesday of each month when the hours are 8:00am- 12:00pm)

Vending Unit
1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, 11th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19102
www.phila.gov/li
Phone: 215-686-2414

For assistance in navigating the process:
Commerce Department Office of Business Services https://business.phila.gov/ Phone: 215-683-2100 Email: business@phila.gov