Changing Ownership of a Food Establishment

Follow these guidelines in order to change ownership of an existing food establishment in the City of Houston. Contact us before you purchase/lease the facility. This will save you time and money.

Houston Food Ordinance 20-36 (a), states that “… A food dealer's permit shall only be valid for the location specified thereon and may not be transferred from place to place. A food dealer's permit shall become void upon the closing of any sale of the establishment.”

This means that once the permit holder has vacated the premises on which a permit was issued, any new business owner wishing to operate that food establishment must apply for a new permit and be granted a permit in the new permit holder’s name. It also means that the old permit holder must apply for a new permit if they re-incorporate the business to a new Limited Liability Corporation, change to a new taxpayer name in the same location, or wish to open the same business in a new location.

In order to assist the transition of business, the Houston Health Department will allow an open and operating facility to change permit holders without interruption of business, provided:

  • A request for a change of ownership inspection is scheduled within 30 days of execution of the change of owner documents (deed, close of escrow, dealer’s report of sale, lease agreement, legal contract, etc.); A Houston Health Department staff must inspect prospective establishments prior to the sale to determine compliance with the Houston Food OrdinanceFailure to submit the application within 30 days of execution of the change of ownership will result in assessment of additional fees and possible closure.
  • The facility stays within the same general food establishment category as the previous permit;
  • The facility has not been physically altered, equipment added or removed, has no structural or equipment deficiencies or menu changes that require new food handling procedures and equipment;
  • The facility has not closed for extensive renovation or other reasons. If the facility has to close, the operator must apply for a new permit.

Change of Ownership Inspections

Prospective owners are encouraged to review the records of the food establishment they are considering buying via an open records request. A fee is charged for this service.

Call 832-393–5100 to schedule your change of ownership inspection.

  • All existing violations will be documented on the inspection report. After all corrections have been completed, a re-inspection must be performed prior to operating.
  • Food establishments containing a documented history of food ordinance violations, including structural or equipment defects, may be required to submit plans and specifications for remodeling and/or additions to bring the establishment up to existing standards.
  • Upon approval, an invoice for a food dealer’s permit is issued by the health officer. The invoice must be paid at the Houston Health Department permit office at 8000 North Stadium Drive prior to operating.
  • Enforcement action may be taken for operating without a valid food dealers permit, changing ownership without the required pre-opening inspection approval, or remodeling without submitting plans as required.