SAN FRANCISCO—On Monday, November 1, the Mayor of San Francisco, city Treasurer José Cisneros, and San Francisco Board of Supervisor Hillary Ronen announced the launch of First Year Free, an innovative new Citywide pilot program that waives first-year permit, initial license, and initial business registration fees for new small businesses.

To qualify for First Year Free, a business must open a new ground floor commercial location between November 1, and October 31, 2022. Only small businesses with less than $2 million in San Francisco gross receipts are eligible, and the program is not applicable to formula retail locations.

“If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or small business owner who is considering opening a new storefront, now is the time. San Francisco is here to help,” said the Mayor of San Francisco. “Opening a small business in San Francisco was difficult and expensive well before the pandemic, and as we move forward with our economic recovery, we need to do all that we can to support local entrepreneurs. First Year Free addresses a major hurdle in opening a small business in this City and represents our commitment to our diverse entrepreneur communities.”

Ronen sponsored legislation to create the program, and the Mayor of SF and the SF Board of Supervisors allocated $12 million in the budget to fund the pilot year.

“Right now, opening a restaurant in San Francisco requires about twenty different permits while opening a retail shop requires up to eleven. Each of these permits comes with a fee,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “First Year Free is a message to new, small businesses: we value your contributions, we recognize the obstacles before you, and we are here to make it easier for you to open up in this great city.”

The SF Mayor’s Office notes in a press release that after an individual registers a new business or a new business location with the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector, they will be automatically screened for eligibility into First Year Free. Eligible participants and those who agree to sign up, enrollment is immediate. Individuals will receive an email and letter confirming they are part of the program, which they can bring to permitting agencies to have fees waived on the spot. Waived fees include:

-Initial year business registration fee (for new businesses only)

-Application, inspection, and one-time permit fees

-Initial license fees

“It’s no secret that the pandemic hit small businesses hard. We all want to see our commercial corridors thrive again,” said Treasurer José Cisneros. “First Year Free will give quick and substantive relief to new businesses, without any red tape. From the beginning our goal was to provide a seamless Citywide experience for time-strapped small business owners.”

“First Year Free is a wonderful opportunity for up and coming entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business and open a new storefront in San Francisco,” said Kate Sofis, Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “As our economic recovery gains momentum, we want our aspiring business owners to be able to begin their dream without having to worry about these initial start-up costs. This program is a win and one of many tools for the city to fill vacancies and reduce barriers in of support our small businesses.”

First Year Free is led by the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector, with help from the Office of Small Business and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. Participating City Departments include the Department of Building Inspection, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Public Works, the Entertainment Commission, the Fire Department, the Planning Department, the Police Department, and the Public Utilities Commission.

“Worried that it’s too expensive to start or expand a small business in San Francisco? The City just made it cheaper with First Year Free,” said Small Business Commission President Sharky Laguna. “This program will support the growth and prosperity of all small businesses to foster an inclusive San Francisco.”

For more information about First Year Free, visit: sftreasurer.org/FirstYearFree.