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Calgary to offer online business licence applications this summer

When the City of Calgary started accepting business licence applications for cannabis retail stores on April 24, only 14 people were in line at the municipal building at 6 a.m.

The other 219 were at their homes or offices, logged onto computers and waiting to hit send on their paperwork.

April 24 wasn’t just the first day the city allowed cannabis business applications, it was also the first time they accepted any sort of business licence application online.

The move saved a potential logistical nightmare at the municipal building, and now the city is getting ready to offer the service to any business applicant.

Brandy MacInnis, senior special projects officer with the City of Calgary, said they know from the numbers that this is a service people are looking to access online.

By the end of the day, only 32 people had applied in person, while 219 people – or 87 per cent – applied online.

MacInnis said so far they’ve only been accepting cannabis business applications online, but they hope to expand the service to all applicants sometime this summer.

“It was quite the undertaking for our internal teams but we know that it is important to our customers and it will definitely help save them time,” she said.

Scott Crockatt, director of communications with the Calgary Chamber, said although applying for a business licence is not something businesses have to do very often, Calgary businesses have been asking for this.

“One of the thing we’ve heard from businesses is that it can be a time consuming and painful process,” said Crockatt. You have to leave your business, drive down to the city, park, and take time out of your day.”

He noted that just about any transaction can now be completed online, and this move by the city will save the collective business community thousands of hours, once the system is up and running.

MacInnis explained that the city didn’t just throw up the webpage and leave would-be retailers to figure it out. They had a one-hour webinar followed by a live Q and A to help teach business owners how the new system would work.

They also have a live chat feature which connects applicants to city staff, to help clarify the process if needed.

She said about half of the live chats started on April 24 were in regards to the cannabis application.

“As customers were filling in their forms, if they had any issues they could go onto the live chat right away and resolve the issue,” she said.

The average response time when a live chat question was asked was 52 seconds.

McInnis said the city does not yet have a firm date for when the service will be available for all customers, but the target is sometime in the next three months.