Guide to opening a businesses in Bristol

Bristol has one of the strongest and fastest growing economies in the UK. The city's strong aerospace and advanced engineering, high tech, and low carbon technologies sectors help drive the local and regional economy, as do creative, digital, financial and professional services. Business starting operations in Bristol have access to a wide range of national and regional supports, including grants and loans. The following provides key details about opening a new business in Bristol.

Licences and Permits

A licence or permit may be needed to run a business in Bristol. For example, a premises licence is needed to operate a cinema where there is alcohol for sale, regulated entertainment, and late night refreshment between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. This type of licence is also needed for theatres and businesses that provide late hours catering, public entertainment, and supply alcohol. Clubs and private clubs often require a club premises certificate, while a private hire driver's licence is needed for anyone operating a private hire vehicle. Street trading consent from the council is required for any type of street trade including hot food vehicles, flower stalls and ice cream vans. Food premises must be registered, including cafes, restaurants, shops and supermarkets, caterers, hotels and guest houses, market stalls, delivery vehicles and other moveable structures. Pet shops, tattoo and piercing shops, scrap metal businesses, skip operators and street cafes also need to be licensed by the council. Addition information on the types of licenses available is provided on Bristol City Council's website.

Health and Safety

A business has a legal obligation to provide staff, customers, visitors, contractors and others in their premises with a safe and healthy workplace. This means ensuring equipment and machinery is suitable and safe, planning work activities that are safe and without health risks, providing protective equipment as well as health and safety training and information, and recording accidents and reporting them when necessary. Bristol City Council is responsible for overseeing health and safety in most retail and service premises, while the national Health and Safety Executive (HSE) covers larger premises like factories. New businesses should consider delegating responsibility for health and safety to a qualified person. This person would provide health and safety advice, although the employer remains legally liable and responsible. Employers are required to consult with their staff on health and safety matters, and management can be prosecuted for offences. More information about health and safety in the workplace is available from the HSE.

Bristol City Council's health and safety team protects people for workplace accidents, illnesses and injuries as well as property damage. The team inspects and licences animal welfare premises such as pet shops. It also receives accident notifications from businesses to ensure they comply with the regulations and investigates them when needed. The team also completes health and safety checks and inspections, investigates complaints about health and safety issues, inspects ships at the Port of Bristol, checks imported food, and investigates cases of infectious diseases.

When starting a new food business, it is also important to fully understand food safety regulations. In addition to being registered with the council, food businesses have a legal duty to make sure that the food they serve and sell is safe to eat. Businesses must have a written food safety management plan and procedures

Business Rates

Business rates are charged on commercial properties in Bristol. The occupant of the property typically pays business rates, which might be the owner-occupier or the leaseholder. Rates are calculated annually by multiplying the property's rateable value annually by the multiplier set by the UK government. Business Improvement District (BID) levies are also charged for businesses based in the Broadmead BID, Cater Business Park BID, Clifton Village BID, Bedminster Town Team BID, and Gloucester Road. Small businesses can get a discount or business rate relief if they occupy a property with a rateable value of less than £18,000. For more information about business rates, visit

Supports for New Businesses

There are a number of supports for new businesses in Bristol. The UK government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website provides information on business finance, cash flow, credit and investment needs. The West of England Growth Fund supports investment in capital assets, research and development projects, and training programmes. The programme is supported by the Regional Growth Fund and delivered by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). LEP also delivers the Economic Development Fund (EDF), which is funded by business rates collected from Enterprise Areas in the West of England including Bristol's Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. Funding supports development in Enterprise Areas and the Zone. The LEP also provides funding through a Local Growth Fund.

Although Bristol City Council does not provide business grants or financing, there are several other sources where new businesses can apply for support. The UK government's Small Loans for Business Scheme has loans of up to £50,000 for small and medium sized businesses with a viable business plan. Applicants typically need to have been refused financing from banks. The Finance for Business programme also provides flexible finance options including loans and equity for similar businesses. Capital in the form of grants starting at £10,000 is also available from the Grant for Business Investment (GBI) Scheme, while the Enterprise Finance Guarantee provides government-backed loan guarantees for businesses seeking financing from lenders. For more information about finance support schemes, visit

Find Office Space in Bristol

»    office to let
»    office to let
»    office to let
»    office to let
»    office to let
»    office to let