1. Q: Who needs a permit in Santa Clara County?
A: Anyone who plans to sell or give away food to the public, even if it is for a short period of time.
Private events do not require a permit from our office.
- If you need a permit for a mobile cart, truck or trailer click here.
- If you need a permit for a temporary event food booth, click here.
2. Q: How do I know if my event is public or private?
A: Your event may be considered public if any one of the following occurs:
• Advertising via newspaper, social media, radio, television, flyers, word of mouth.
• Anyone can buy tickets or register for your event.
• If there is no restriction to who may attend.
Your event may be considered private if any one of the following occurs:
• Event is not advertised, but by direct invitation only (Ex: wedding, birthday party, etc.).
• Invitation/ticket is non-transferrable, cannot be given or sold to another person.
Please contact us if you need further assistance to determine if your event is public or private.
3. Q: Why do I need a permit?
A: Your permit fee pays for the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) Inspectors to provide
education and guidance, to ensure compliance with local, State and Federal laws, and to maintain
a level of food safety to protect public health.
***Operating without a permit is against the law and will result in enforcement action (closure,
cease and desist, office hearing, citation, impoundment of unapproved food/equipment, and
4. Q: Do I need a permit to prepare food at home?
A: In general, food must be stored and prepared at an approved, permitted facility, not in the
home. This could be a commercial kitchen or even a restaurant that allows a vendor to use its
facilities. There are certain state approved food items that are allowed to be prepared at a DEH
permitted home (referred to as a Cottage Food Operation). Click here for information regarding
Cottage Food requirements.
5. Q: How do I get my food cart/truck/trailer (mobile food facility) approved to operate in
Santa Clara County?
A: Complete and submit the mobile food facility application packet prior to scheduling your
inspection. This process may take up to one month or more, so please submit your application
early. For detailed information, please visit our Mobile Food Facility website.
6. Q: Are there any other requirements for mobile food vendors?
A: Besides the County of Santa Clara Environmental Health Permit, you will need to meet
additional city regulations for each city where you will be operating. Check with the local city
jurisdictions for additional requirements.
7. Q: Can I get a one day permit to operate my food cart/truck/trailer in Santa Clara County?
A: Only annual permits are issued for a food cart/truck/trailer operating independently. A
temporary permit may be issued for a food cart/truck/trailer operating in conjunction with an
approved temporary event.
8. Q: Can I get a permit to operate a food booth?
A: A food booth may not operate independently but only in conjunction with an approved
temporary event. A permit specific to the event is required. Click here for more information.
9. Q: What is an approved temporary event?
A: An approved temporary event is a community event that is of civic, political, public, or
educational nature, including state and county fairs, city festivals, circuses, and other public
gathering events approved by the Department. (California Health & Safety Code Sec. 113755)
10. Q: I currently have a permit with your department, what does my permit allow me to do?
A: Your food service/operation is limited by the type of permit you have. Your permit category defines what activities you can conduct at your facility. Refer to your “Environmental Health Permit” to determine your permit category. The permit category is listed directly to the right of your permit number near the bottom of your permit.
No Food Preparation
Food service restricted to only prepackaged
foods (i.e. chips, canned drinks, candy etc.)
Restricted Food Preparation
FP09, FP12, FP15
Allows for the heating of ready-to-eat foods
(i.e. hot dogs, breakfast sandwich, etc.).
Full Food Preparation
FP10, FP11, FP13,
FP14, FP16, FP17
Allows for full cooking/food prep procedures.
Please note that a change in menu or the use of additional equipment may change your permit category and will require prior approval from this Department. Contact us if you have questions regarding your permit category.
11. Q: I have a food facility (restaurant), can I barbecue/grill outside my facility?
A: You may only barbecue/grill if your permit category allows for food preparation (See #10
above). Cooking in pots/pans/other utensils on a grill does not constitute barbecuing. Outdoor
activity is limited to barbecuing/grilling/cooking directly over the approved heat source. Once the
food is cooked, it may be directly served from the grill. All other food preparation (cutting,
trimming, portioning, or assembling) must take place in doors. Any outdoor barbecuing/grilling
requires prior approval from this Department and may also require approval from other local
jurisdictions. Contact us for more information.
12. Q: Can I set up an outdoor bar at my facility?
A: It is possible, if your permit category allows for food preparation (See #10 above). An outdoor beverage bar may be approved when it is operated on the same premises as or in conjunction with a fully enclosed food establishment. There are two types of outdoor bars: a permanently installed outdoor bar and a portable outdoor bar.
- An outdoor beverage bar that has permanently installed equipment and facilities.
- Plans must be submitted and approved by this Department prior to operation. Visit our plan check page for more info.
- An outdoor beverage bar that is readily moveable for cleaning and storage.
- Approval from your inspector is required prior to operation.
An Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) license may also be required, for more info visit the ABC website. Additionally, further approval may be required from other jurisdictions.