Most Common Mistakes When Opening Your Restaurant

Part III: Zoning

A common mistake in our industry is restaurant owners not checking a property’s zoning before signing a lease agreement. Being overeager to sign off on a space with a great location or price could cost a lot of additional time and effort if the unit’s current zoning doesn’t match how the restaurant owner intends to use it.

What is Zoning?

Zoning is a common practice in city planning that limits each building only to serve a specific purpose. So, for example, you don’t see retail stores in the middle of a residential neighborhood because, by law, the properties in that area are only allowed to be residential units.

But zoning in Vancouver gets more specific than just a split between residential, industrial, and commercial.

For example, within commercial real estate, each unit will have unique zoning conditions that will factor into how difficult it will be to turn the space into a restaurant.

Contracting Construction

Generally, the best way to avoid any rezoning-related hurdles would be to take over a unit previously occupied by a restaurant.

However, commercial real estate in Vancouver is often not that simple. If, for example, that perfect location has never been used as a restaurant and it is currently zoned to be a yoga studio or child daycare facility, the space would need to go through a “change of use” process before getting the restaurant’s building permit approved.

In our experience, restaurant owners often don’t have the expertise or patience to navigate government bureaucracy. They want to get their restaurant up and running as soon as possible.

This is why it is beneficial to begin talks with an experienced and knowledgeable contractor at the preliminary stage of the project. A contractor with years of experience building restaurants in Vancouver will guide you and create an efficient and realistic project timeline when factoring in a change of use application.

Restaurants often require specialized equipment and building modifications (see our articles on kitchen exhaust systems and grease interceptors.)

Unfortunately, we commonly see restaurant owners sign a lease only to find out later that they are not allowed to install a vital device in the operations of their kitchen.

Therefore, even with a unit that allows restaurants in its zoning, it is essential to work alongside the project’s designer and architect to ensure that its specific requirements also fall within the zoning.

As someone looking to open a restaurant in Vancouver, this might seem overwhelming, and for many restaurant owners, it often can cause stress and headaches.

But this doesn't need to be the case, and Mercury Contracting is happy to help you work through this process with you. With over a decade of experience building restaurants, we have a strong understanding of navigating these bureaucratic approval processes efficiently.

So if you are looking to build a restaurant and have questions about zoning, give us a call. We will be happy to offer our experience so that you can get your restaurant operational as soon as possible!