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If you plan to start a business in any type of entertainment industry, you may need to apply for an entertainment license before you start operating. The definition of what constitutes as “entertainment” varies by state. Some states refer to the entertainment license and amusement license interchangeably, while others have separate requirements for the types of businesses that need an entertainment business license.

The City of Poway, California, as an example, considers the following types of businesses ones that need an entertainment license:

  • One that performs a play, review, song, dance act, or poetry recitation on site
  • A business that produces a fashion show
  • A business that involves females exposing certain body parts

This city’s business licenses, permits & tax agency does not, however, consider any business that plays only “mechanical music” or instrumental music during certain hours, or one where only customers dance (like a nightclub) one that requires an entertainment license. The rules can be tricky, so your best bet is to speak to someone in your business license division to find out if your business qualifies for an entertainment license.

Specific Types of Entertainment Licenses

Certain types of businesses will require something more specific than just a general entertainment license. If you plan to host a temporary event that qualifies as entertainment, you will need a temporary entertainment license. Some other examples of entertainment licenses you might need include:

  • Arcade license
  • Special event license
  • Athletic exhibition license
  • Cabaret show license
  • Carnival license
  • Carousel license
  • Concert license
  • Public dance license
  • Skating rink license
  • Circus license
  • Dancing school license
  • Exhibition and show (outdoor and indoor) license
  • Ferris wheel license
  • Jukebox license
  • Live entertainment, restaurant, or nightclub license
  • Theater license

As you can see, the list of entertainment licenses is very long, so make sure to consider whether you need more than one license. It can be a challenge to juggle multiple licenses, but it’s necessary. Each will need to be renewed, so mark on a calendar when each expires so you can make sure and stay compliant, keeping your business on the safe side of the law.

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