To sell, lease or offer services in the public streets of New York City, you will need a General Vendor license to sell merchandise or a Mobile Food Vending (MFV) permit and license to sell food.
The General Vendor license for merchandise is issued by the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) — formerly the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) — and is limited by law to 853 permits for non-veteran applicants. Because the demand is higher than the amount of permits available, there is a waiting list that has been closed for more than a decade.
At the moment, only individuals with a waiting list number issued by the DCWP, an honorably discharged veteran residing in New York State, or the surviving spouse or domestic partner of an honorably discharged veteran residing in New York State may submit an application for a General Vendor license.
Disabled veterans, who also hold a valid General Vendor license, can submit an application for specialized vending licenses, which allows them to vend on restricted streets as noted §2-314 of Title 6 of the Rules of the City of New York. There are two types of specialized licenses: Citywide Specialized vending license (Yellow) and Midtown Core Zone vending license (Blue).
You do not need a license to sell certain products. Under the First Amendment, and with a valid Tax ID, one can sell books, magazines, news-papers, or art (paintings/prints/photos) without a license. The restrictions for street vendors still apply, however, and you can receive a ticket if you violate the regulations listed here.
General Vendor License Application
As mentioned above, you can only apply if you are a New York State resident honorably discharged veteran, have already been given a waiting list number by the DCWP, or are the surviving spouse or domestic partner of an honorably discharged veteran residing in New York State.
You can submit your application online: General Vendor License Application (press Apply Now) or in person at the following address:
NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)
42 Broadway, Lobby
New York, NY 10004
The center is open between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and between 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. Online and in-person applications require the same documentation to be filled prior to submitting it.
Food Vendor License and Permit
To sell food on the street you must obtain both a Food Vendor license and a permit for the cart or vehicle from the NYC’s Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). Licenses are not limited and one can get a license to work on the vehicle/cart of someone who has a permit. The number of permits available at the moment are limited. However, New York City will issue 4,000 more permits in the upcoming decade due to a bill passed in January, which will add 400 permits per year, starting in July 2022 and ending in 2032.
Prior to the license, you will also be required to complete and pass a food handling course over the course of two days, which is offered in English only. An appointment can be scheduled here.
Mobile Food Vendor License:
The Mobile Food Vending license is issued to an individual who will prepare and/or serve food from a permitted mobile food vending unit (truck or pushcart). The license is issued by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) as a photo ID badge, and it must be submitted by the applicant in person. Due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, appointments must be made in advance.
1. You can obtain an application packet by:
a. Calling 311 and asking for Mobile Food Vendor License Application.
b. Visiting the Citywide Licensing Center at 42 Broadway
c. Downloading application forms and instructions from www.nyc.gov/healthpermits
People interested in applying for a food handling license can also do so with their Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), if they do not have a Social Security Number. However, they must first apply for a NYS Sales Tax Certificate of Authority and then apply for the license, said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, Deputy Director at the Street Vendor Project.
Applying for a Permit:
The waitlist for both The Green Cart Permit and the Mobile Food Vending Permit is currently closed, and it may take years to be able to obtain one. But here is what you need to know:
The Green Cart permit allows individuals to operate a food cart for the sale of whole, raw fruits and vegetables in designated areas of the City. Here is the link to renew for a green cart permit.
To sell at a street fair or temporary event, you should contact the New York City Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management, Community Assistance Unit by calling 311 for a list of city approved street fairs or accessing the Citywide Events Calendar at www.NYC.gov. You must contact the street fair or event sponsor to rent or secure a space and then obtain a temporary license from either the DCWP. (NYC business solutions)
Aclaración: because it is nearly impossible to obtain a MFV permit, a safe option for those looking to enter the industry is to apply for the MFV license (above) and work for/with someone that already has a permit.
Resources for street vendors:
An illustrative guide of the rules that govern street vending in NYC.
The Street Vendor Project:
The Street Vendor Project is a membership-based project with more than 1,800 active vendor members who are working together to create a vendors’ movement for permanent change. SVP works to correct social and economic injustice faced by NYC street vendors.
Funding: PUSHCART FUND
The Pushcart Fund gives funding to New York City street vendors who need capital to sustain or grow their small businesses. Many vendors need loans to buy new pushcarts or stock up on merchandise. Others need loans to pay their fines and renew their licenses so they can stay in business. It is run by Accompany Capital and The Street Vendor Project.
NYC Resources for business owners:
Business Assistance: financial counseling and information
Online Licensing System: Frequently Asked Questions for Users
There are approximately 300 streets that are restricted to conduct business. Here is a complete list.