Business Ordinances

Carmel Business Ordinances

Here are a list of the more common Carmel Business Ordinances. For a complete list, please visit the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Planning Department located in City Hall.

Sellers Permit

Please be aware that a sales or use tax may apply to your business activities. You may seek written advice regarding this tax by writing to the nearest Board of Equalization office at 111 East Navajo, Suite 100, Salinas CA 93906. For general information, please call (831) 443-3003.

Hours of Operation

Businesses located in the Residential and Limited Commercial (RC) District or within three hundred feet (300’) of the Single Family Residential (R-1) District are allowed to operate between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. except for the following, which are allowed to operate between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

  • All retail uses
  • Eating/drinking places
  • Theaters
  • Video stores

All other businesses and locations may operate without specific time restrictions.

Reusable Bags

Carmel-by-the-Sea adopted a single-use plastic bag ban in all retail stores on July 3, 2012 that became effective on February 3, 2013. No retail establishment, that sells perishable or nonperishable goods including, but not limited to, clothing, food, and personal items directly to the customer, shall provide a single-use plastic carryout bag to a customer at the check stand, cash register, point of sale or other point of departure for the purpose of transporting food or merchandise out of the establishment.

Sign Standards

As one of the most commonly reviewed Carmel Business Ordinances, please be mindful of the Sign Standards. Prior to installing your sign, please obtain and review a sign application packet that describes the standards applicable to sign location and construction.  Some important standards to remember include:

  • One (1) business sign is permitted for each business. Second signs are rarely permitted and only under special circumstances with the approval of the Planning Commission.
  • Exterior signs cannot exceed three square feet (hanging double-faced signs) or six square feet (wall signs). Wall signs may be permitted to a maximum of ten square feet under special circumstances and only with Planning Commission approval.
  • Interior signs are regulated if they are visible to the public from outside the business. A permit is required for all interior signs with the exception of the following:
  • Signs within the first fifteen feet of the business frontage with the letter sizes of one inch (1”) or less in height.
  • Signs beyond fifteen feet from the business frontage with letter sizes of three inches (3”) or less in height.
  • The maximum aggregate area of all business signs visible to the public from outside the business (including interior and exterior signs) is ten square feet.
  • Self-illuminated signs, such as neon, fluorescent and backlit signs, are prohibited if visible to the public from outside the business.

Restaurant signs and sale signs have special sign regulations. Please contact the Planning and Building Department for these standards.

Exterior Display of Merchandise

Only certain types of businesses in the commercial district (such as florists, gas stations, pottery shops, markets, etc.) may display merchandise outside the business space and only with a special permit approved by the Planning Commission. Most businesses are prohibited from having exterior displays. Please help us preserve the clean, uncluttered appearance of the pedestrian shopping environment.

Remodels & Exterior Changes

A permit is required for all interior remodels including the installation of new lights, removal of walls, construction of new walls, plumbing changes, etc. Please consult the Building Official for the required plans to be submitted prior to receiving your business license (831) 620-2010.

Exterior alterations such as paint changes, new doors and windows, landscaping, etc. requires a design review. Please contact a Planner for the submittal requirements and the review process (831) 620-2010.


Business owners are responsible for maintaining in good repair any fire or police alarm systems installed in their shops. Please check installed alarms periodically and avoid false alarms which are costly and may compromise police and fire services.

Community Character

Carmel Business Ordinances strive to maintain the character of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Lighting, sound and aesthetics play a key role in the City’s charm.

  • Each business must store its trash, recycle and garbage on private property in covered containers. Storage of your containers away from public view helps keep the City clean and attractive for everyone.
  • Store owners are encouraged to keep the sidewalk and landscaped areas around their business neat, clean and well cared for.  Sidewalks should be swept but not hosed off (except to clean large food spills or animal wastes).  This helps conserve the limited water resources of the Monterey Peninsula.
  • Businesses are expected to maintain the quiet ambiance of the downtown. Music may be played indoors but must not be audible from the exterior of the business.
  • Store lighting should not be bright, garish or directed to the exterior of the business. A warm and gentle glow emanating from the store windows is more characteristic of our village. If you intend to change lighting, please contact the Community Planning and Building Department (620-2010) for a copy of the City’s lighting standards and the plans required for approval of permits.

Holiday Lighting

The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea allows for the placement of lights on trees in the public right-of way and in or on commercial property on a temporary basis during the holiday season. The “holiday season” is defined as the period beginning with the third Wednesday in November and continuing until the Tuesday following Presidents Day.

This Policy applies to the public rights-of-way and private properties in the CC and SC Zones and to commercial enterprises in the residential district.

The following Carmel Business Ordinances shall be followed:

  1. As of the Tuesday following Presidents Day, all holiday lighting must be removed from businesses and from City-owned trees.
  2. All lights and extension cords used outdoors shall be “exterior type” UL listed.
  3. Lighting shall be secured, not loose or dangling, and well out of the public’s way. Electrical cords shall be installed at a minimum of eight(8) feet above the public right-of-way.
  4. Lights are not permitted on trees which have a trunk diameter of less than three(3) inches, measured four and one-half(4 1/2) feet above the ground.
  5. Lights must be hung in a manner that will not damage a tree or other public property. Nothing that will cause holes in trees-such as nails, pushpins, or staples may be used.
  6. Lights shall be removed if, in the opinion of the City Forester, they are damaging a tree.
  7. Tracer or flashing lights are not permitted.
  8. Permanent exterior lighting changes are permissible only through Planning Commission approval of an exterior design change, application for which may be made at the Community Planning and Building Department.
  9. Only lights may be installed on public trees. No other form of decoration, such as ornaments, ribbons, tinsel artificial snow or coloring shall be permitted.