San Antonio does not have a general business license, which reduces the local red tape that many entrepreneurs encounter elsewhere. But officials should streamline zoning and permitting rules for starting a business, build step-by-step guides, and increase access to clear information online.

Key Takeaways

In San Antonio, the cost, delays, and complexity imposed by the regulatory process can make it difficult for entrepreneurs to start the businesses of their dreams. 


Permit fees add up. For example, a restaurateur must pay 12 different fees totaling $2,477 just to open their doors.


San Antonio’s website does not sufficiently organize information or provide step-by-step guides to license and permit applicants. The city scores just two out of five in our one-stop shop analysis. Lack of clarity on rules leads to confusion and delays for entrepreneurs getting up and running.


Compared to other cities studied, there are a relatively high number of business license categories in San Antonio. Officials license 53 different business activities—in addition to dozens of permits for zoning and construction. 

Starting a Business in San Antonio: By the Numbers

Total Cost
We calculated this metric by totaling the fees for all the licenses, permits, and registrations each business needs to get started.
Number of Fees
We calculated this metric by counting how many fees governments impose on each business for completing registrations and paperwork.
Agencies Involved
We calculated this metric by totaling the number of agencies entrepreneurs must work with in order to get up and running—whether in the form of submitting paperwork to an agency’s staff, or in terms of abiding by regulations that an agency has promulgated.
In-Person Activities
We calculated this metric by counting the number of compliance activities each entrepreneur needs to complete in person, rather than online or by mail.
Number of Forms
We calculated this metric by counting the various forms and applications each business needs to submit
Number of Steps
We calculated this metric by totaling the discrete tasks an entrepreneur must complete to start each of the business types.

Business Licensing


One-Stop Shop Score

  • Connecting city requirements with processes from other levels of government
  • Completing forms and registrations through the portal, not through each agency’s own website
  • Covering all city requirements, not just requirements for getting a business license
  • Providing a single log-in opportunity so entrepreneurs can organize information and track progress in one location
  • Guiding entrepreneurs effectively through the process

San Antonio Fast Facts

Notable Barriers and Roadblocks

San Antonio has a number of regulatory roadblocks that single out specific kinds of businesses. For example, home-based tutoring businesses may only use 25% of their home for their business and are unable to employ non-resident employees or tutor more than two students at a time.

As entrepreneurs navigate unclear local guidance, state requirements can further exacerbate frustrations, particularly among entrepreneurs from vulnerable populations. Applicants for barber licensure must certify to the state whether they have a criminal history and, if so, must submit a Criminal History Questionnaire along with the form. Barbers must also indicate if they have completed the seventh grade.

Accommodations for New or Small Businesses

New businesses only need to apply for a certificate of occupancy for a commercial building when there is a change in the zoning use of the space. This means that many entrepreneurs will avoid having to obtain an additional set of zoning approvals.

Policy Recommendations

Officials and policymakers have the opportunity to make it cheaper, faster, and simpler to start a business in San Antonio. City officials should:

  • Create a true one-stop shop for starting a business, with step-by-step guides and information that cover city, county, and state requirements.  
  • Simplify the process to obtain building permits by combining steps and paperwork, creating more guides for complying with agency rules, and lowering fees. 
  • Reduce the number of business license categories to cut back on the paperwork entrepreneurs must file at the local level. 
  • Eliminate unnecessary restrictions on business types best suited for those starting out small, like home-based businesses.