Obtain a Health Permit
The process to obtain a health permit is determined by the type of permit. Please click on the link below for more information.
- Establishment Health Permits: Most of the health permits issued and regulated by EH fall into this category, and are typically food facilities, pools or hotel establishments. The procedure to obtain this type of permit is described more in detail below, but an application, application fee, and pre-opening inspection is required prior to opening. More...
- Temporary Food Permits: This permit is required for food vendors when participating at festivals, public events, and/or product samplings, regardless if the vendor is selling or giving the food away. Food vendors must submit an application with a menu and an application fee at least thirty (30) days prior to the event. Charity organizations are not automatically exempt from the permit or fee requirements. More...
- Pool Management Company License: This license is for professional companies that provide pool operation services for public or semi-public aquatic facilities. To obtain this license, the company must submit an application and application fee, along with a resume of services. More...
- Farmers' Market: EH conducts a review of all food vendors who want to participate at our local Farmers' Markets. All food vendors must register for each food item they want to sell or serve. Some foods may require a temporary food permit. More...
- Onsite/Well Permits: a plan review, application, and application fee is required for all new geo-thermal wells, potable wells, and pump and haul permits. Abandon wells and other related records are also available. More...
Establishment Health Permits
Most of the health permits issued and regulated by the Environmental Health Division are establishment health permits. Food establishment permits make up the bulk of such facilities in Alexandria.
Examples of establishment permits:
- Food: Restaurants, carry-outs, caterers, cafeterias, grocery stores, convenience stores, bakeries, meat/poultry/seafood markets, mobile food units, commissaries, vending machines (with food that requires refrigeration), and food services for hotels, bed and breakfasts, child care facilities, schools, colleges, hospitals, nursing homes, detention centers, adult care facilities, and summer camps.
- Aquatic Health: Pools, spas, water-slides, interactive fountains.
- Transient Housing: Hotels, motels, camp grounds, and bed and breakfasts (Some extended stay establishments do not meet the state regulations for a hotel--please call for clarification).
The Environmental Health Division does not regulate the following:
- Fitness or Health Clubs: Fitness clubs, gyms, martial arts facilities, or yoga/palates studios, unless this facility also provides food or other services regulated by the health department
- Massage: Contact the state board of nursing.
- Medical Facilities: Chiropractors, doctor's offices, nursing homes, urgent care facilities, etc. Medical facilities are licensed and regulated by the state medical boards.
- Personal Grooming: Barber shops, beauty salons, nail salons, tanning, etc.
Temporary Food Permits
Individuals, organizations, and/or businesses planning to sell or serve food at a public event in the City of Alexandria must apply for a temporary event permit at least 30 days prior to the event. Call 703.746.4910 for more information.
For general information about food safety, please review this guide Cooking for Groups (.pdf) or visit alexandriava.gov/foodsafety.
The City of Alexandria has four farmers’ markets operating within the city limits. If you would like to serve or sell food at any of these markets please complete a Farmers' Market Food Registration Form and submit it to the Health Department for review. For more information about farmers’ markets in the City of Alexandria, click here.
Pool Management Licenses
Pool management companies operating an aquatic facility (eg. pools, spas, water slides, interactive fountains, etc.) on behalf of the facility owner are now required to be licensed with the Alexandria Health Department’s Environmental Health Division. Pool owners, including establishments that are owner-operated, are not required to obtain this license.
Obtain a License: Each pool management company must submit a completed Pool Management License Application (.pdf) along with an annual fee (checks made payable to the “City of Alexandria”). A CV or resume of an active pool management company employee must accompany the application.
Renew a License: see below.
Both potable and non-potable wells (including geo-thermal wells) must obtain a permit from the Alexandria Health Department prior to drilling. To obtain a permit, a plan review is required to be submitted Well Permit Application form and fee. Please see Virginia Department of Health's webpage or call our office for more information.
Obtaining an Establishment Permit
Before you apply for a health permit, you should determine if your facility will be classified as either a new or existing establishment.
- New - An establishment that was not recently permitted to provide the services or products intended by the new owner. For example, if you bought a grocery store with the intention of converting it into a carryout restaurant, the Health Dept. would consider the carryout restaurant a 'new establishment' because that facility had not previously provided hot or cold prepared food.
- Existing - An establishment that was recently permitted to provide the services or products intended by the new owner. Using the example before, if you bought a grocery store with the intention of keeping it as a grocery store, the Health Dept. would consider this an 'existing establishment.'
- The following Guide (.pdf) outlines our process for plan reviews, revisions, and the application process for establishments. In general, the following three steps must occur:
- Plan Review - May or may not be required depending on if the establishment is a new establishment or existing.
- New Establishments: Must have plans reviewed and approved PRIOR to any construction or renovation. Any changes from the approved plans (ig. layout, equipment selections, etc.) must be submitting to the Health Department in writing and in advance; in some cases, an official plan revision may be required to make such changes.
- Existing Establishments: Might need a plan review if any equipment will be replaced, additions or changes will be made to the menu, or the space will be remodeled or renovated. Our office will make the determination.
- Applying for a Permit - A Permit Application (.pdf), permit application fee, and final food or service menu should be submitted approximately 3 to 5 weeks prior to the business's opening. Applications submitted earlier than 5 weeks will not be accepted. Depending on the establishment type, other documents or information may be needed. Examples include variance requests, certification copies, and for:
- Food establishments: certified food manager cards, HACCP plans, parasite destruction letters, Mobile Food Establishments, etc.
- Aquatic establishments: an Electrical Inspection, certified pool operator information, and pool management company information
- Hotel/Motel/B&B establishments: an Acknowledgement of Operational Limitation
- Pre-Opening Inspections: An Environmental Health Specialist (EHS) will review the submitted information and schedule a pre-opening inspection with the business's representative. During this inspection, the EHS will compare the establishment against the approved plans and city and state regulations. The EHS will write an inspection report recommending the issuance of a permit OR provide a list of corrections needed before another pre-opening inspection can be scheduled. If a recommendation is made, the business can take the inspection report to 301 King Street to have the business license issued. The permit will not be issued until the Environmental Health Supervisor approves the application and recommendation.
A plan review is a process used by health departments to examine the physical facility, equipment, processes, and products associated with a proposed establishment. By conducting a plan review, health departments can ensure that the proposed establishment will be able to operate safely and in compliance with our codes and regulations after permit. Our basic guide (.pdf) outlines our plan review procedures. Additional information is provided below:
When is a Plan Review Required?
What Must Be Submitted?
For specific plan requirements, please review our Guide (.pdf); if submitting well plans, consult us first, as a different process is used. Establishment plans, unless for a mobile food vendor, should be submitted to the Permit Processing center at 301 King Street before being brought to the Health Department. All plans must be neat, legible, and drawn to scale, and include:
- a completed Construction or Revision Application with a Permit # designated by the Permit Processing Center. To apply online, visit the Online Permit Center
- all new and existing equipment specifications or cut sheets (the hot water heater specs must also be included!)
- a menu or list of services to be rendered
- Health Department plan review fee
How Long Will a Review Take?
Review times will vary and are based on the complexity of the project, the information provided, and the number of plans already being reviewed by the Health Department. Plans are processed in the order they are received, and for the sake of fairness, we do not 'expedite' one review over another. In general, clients who have reviewed our guide, are familiar with our local codes, and are responsive to questions about their plans have their plans approved faster.
Here are some items that can help you plan your time accordingly:
- Our office will approve or reject a completed plan submission within ten (10) business days of receipt. A completed plan submission refers to a set of plans that includes all documents, drawings, and paperwork needed to verify that the proposed project will comply with our code and regulations. If your original plans are rejected and a revision must be submitted, the revision submission will start a new ten (10) business day deadline.
- The greater the complexity of the project, the longer the review will take.
- The plan review is not an approval to operate your establishment.
- The plan review does not include pre-opening inspections required after a permit application is submitted. An approved plan does not guarantee a permit will be recommended during the first inspection.
If you have any questions or concerns about your current or upcoming project, call the general number of 703.746.4910. Plan review duties rotate and the individual who was your point of contact on a previous project may not be the appropriate person to speak with on your current project.
Renewing a Health Permit
Permits and licenses shall be renewed before the permit's expiration date. Renewal packets are mailed at least one month prior to expiration and include instructions, applications and/or invoices to renew the permit. It is the permit or license holders responsibility to remember to renew its permit on time. To renew, submitting the following:
- The appropriate application, COMPLETED and SIGNED.
If information is omitted from the application, the application may not be accepted.
- Permit renewal application fee
- Any other applicable paperwork (Variance Renewal Requests, Statement of Operational Limitations, Mobile Food Establishment forms, electrical inspections, etc.)
After our office receives the required paperwork, we will verify the ownership and update our files with any new contact information. Then, we will issue the new permit, license, or approval. All food establishments will receive their permit via mailed; all others will receive their permit in the field by an inspecting EHS.
Most establishments renewal annually on a calendar basis. These facilities include restaurant and food permits, pool management company licenses, hotel/B&B permits, and year-round aquatic establishment permits like indoor pools. Renewal invoices are normally mailed in early November.
Seasonal aquatic facilities, like outdoor pools, are renewed annually, but on a modified calendar basis. Renewal invoices are normally mailed in early March.
Temporary food event permits and well permits cannot be renewed. Only new permits can be applied for.
Back to Renewing a Health Permit / Back to Top
Updating a Permit's Ownership
Alexandria Health Department permits are not transferable. This means that a permit can only be used by the the owner listed on the permit. All new owners, corporations, LLCs, etc. cannot operate a facility without obtaining a new permit issued by the Health Department. This requirement also applies to establishments that undergoing an "administrative" change of ownership (ex: when an individual or sole-proprietor wants to move his/her permit under a new corporation or limited liability company). For information on how to obtain a new permit, see Existing Establishments above.
If you are only changing the name:
If your corporation, LLC, or legal name has changed, you can submit an updated permit application. Supporting documentation must be provided. For corporations and LLC's, this documentation should include paperwork from the State Corporation Commission.
If you already changed ownership without notifying us in advance:
Step 1: Close your establishment. Permits are not transferable and it is illegal for you to operate under another business's permit. Use this time to prepare and clean your store for the pre-opening inspection that will be coming shortly.
Step 2: Call our office to notify us of your situation--the sooner the better. We will work with you to re-open your business as soon as possible, but there are certain steps that must be taken. We will advise you of these and begin checking availability of our Environmental Health Specialists to schedule your pre-opening.
Step 3: Submit a Permit Application and application fee (see above for more information). We cannot conduct a pre-opening inspection unless an application has been submitted.
Regulations & Codes
The following are the regulations and codes that the Environmental Health Division use to issue, inspect, and enforce permits and licenses within the city. If you have any questions regarding what regulations, codes, etc. are applicable to your facility or project, call 703.746.4910.
*The Food and Food Handling Code adopted part of the FDA 2009 Model Food Code; see Sec. 11-2-5 for the exceptions.
These forms are provided here for quick reference. Review the information above regarding these permits and licenses before submitting to the Health Department.
Health Department collects application, plan review, re-inspection and late fees. We also issue Notice of Violations that can result in civil penalties. In all cases, fees are non-refundable and are subject to return check fees, if applicable.
Making a Payment: Payments are accepted during normal business hours until 4 pm on the 3rd floor of the Health Department building located at 4480 King Street in Alexandria, Virginia 22302. EH processes fees for both the City of Alexandria and Virginia Department of Health (VDH). In our fee schedule, fees for the City are listed with a "C" and fees for VDH are listed with a "S". When both fees are required for the same permit, the money is collected as a "S."
- The preferred method of payment is check or money order.
- We cannot accept starter checks (common for new businesses)
- If paying by cash, exact change is required.
- For fees listed with a "S", make checks payable to "Alexandria Health Department"
- For fees listed with a "C", make checks payable to "City of Alexandria"
- For fees listed with a "S", we accept Visa or MasterCard; no credit cards accept for fees listed with a "C"
Plan Review Fees: These fees are determined by facility type, not the number of plan rolls submitted. For example, most hotel plans include drawings of the hotel's rooms, restaurant, and swimming pool. While these facilities may be drawn on the same plan roll, the hotel, food,and pool plan review fees will be charged separately. If two of the same type of facility are on one plan roll, usually only one plan review fee (ig. food) will be charged. Call 703.746.4910 if you have questions. (To Plan Review )
Notices of Violations (NOVs) and Civil Penalties: These penalties, sometimes called 'tickets', are issued by an Environmental Health Specialist when he or she observes a serious violation while inspecting an establishment. The penalty can vary depending on the establishment type and severity of the violation, but it is typically either $100, $250, or $500. Do not bring a NOV to the Health Department to pay it; see the back of the NOV for instructions. Once issued by the Health Department, the NOV is forwarded to the City Attorney and Department of Finance to track. The Health Department cannot tell you whether or not it has been paid.