Who needs a City Business License?

Every person, firm, association, or corporation that engages in business within the jurisdiction of the City of Bainbridge Island must have a valid City business license in good standing.  

The Bainbridge Island Municipal Code states "every person who engages in business activities within the City shall apply for and obtain from the director a license for the privilege of engaging in business within the City for each calendar year or portion thereof." Engaging in business means commencing, conducting, or continuing in business, and also the exercise of corporate or franchise powers and liquidating a business (Ord. 2018-35). For online and cloud-based businesses, engaging in business is defined as the physical address of the business as listed with the Washington State Department of Revenue. Without being all-inclusive yet bringing specific awareness to the public, engaging in business includes:

  • General Contractors and All Subcontractors
  • Home-based Businesses (including online and cloud-based businesses)
  • Mobile Retail Food Establishments (i.e., food trucks)
  • Nonprofit Organizations
  • Real Estate Agents (including those working under a brokerage if the agent is an independent agent and not an employee)
  • Rental property owners and property developers (no matter if the property rented or developed is not located on the island)
  • Short-term, Long-term  Housing or Vacation Rentals (including short-term platforms such as AirBNBs and VRBOs)
  • Vendors at Special Events

A more comprehensive list encompassing the definition is available within Chapter 5.05 of the Municipal Code as modified by City Ordinance No. 2018-35. The City definition meets the State of Washington model threshold definition as mandated by RCW 35.90.080.

For means of determining the standard for "within the City," the City has adopted the definition for physical nexus presence, meaning that the nexus standard for determining presence within the City need only be demonstrably more than the slightest presence. 

Physical presence nexus creating activities include, but are not limited to:

  • having an employee working in the State and, subsequently, in the City
  • having property in the State and, subsequently, in the City
  • having a stock of goods in the State and, subsequently, in the City, including inventory held by a marketplace facilitator or another third party representative
  • renting or leasing tangible personal property in the State and, subsequently, in the City
  • having an agent or third-party representative engage in activities that are significantly associated with establishing or maintaining a market in the State and, subsequently, in the City
  • soliciting sales in the State and, subsequently, in the City through employees or other representatives
  • installing or assembling goods in the State and, subsequently, in the City, either by employees or other representatives
  • constructing, installing, repairing, or maintaining real property or tangible personal property in the State and, subsequently, in the City, either by employees or other representatives
  • providing services in the State and, subsequently, in the City, such as accepting returns or providing product training, either by employees or other representatives
  • delivering goods into the State and, subsequently, in the City other than by mail or common carrier, including using the seller’s own vehicle
  • having an exhibit at a trade show to maintain or establish a market for in the State and, subsequently in the City, except for as provided in our Special Notice titled Trade Convention Exception from Nexus for Retail Sales


Please Note: If a business has more than one location in the City, a separate license is required for each location.

ATTENTION:  All businesses and organizations directly engaging in business with the City of Bainbridge Island, for profit or nonprofit purposes, must have a valid City business license in good standing.

Business Licensing Exemptions

The City recognizes the following exemptions related to business licensing:

Fee-Exempt Business License.  The City recognizes two types of businesses as eligible for a Fee-Exempt License.  A Fee-Exempt Business License allows businesses to register with the City and obtain a City Business License; however, the business is exempt from paying the general business license fee of $71. To apply for a Fee-Exempt license:

Please note: Fee-exempt licenses will be audited yearly to ensure a business continues to meet qualifications for exemption.  Businesses not meeting qualifications will have their license automatically changed to a fee-based license. The annual business license fee is $71.

Business owners will be contacted by the City to ensure the application meets the qualifications for fee exemption. Fee-exempt applications are subject to the same zoning and code compliance review and approval as a general or home occupancy license application. Be aware, the City will attempt to reach a business owner twice to discuss fee-exempt qualifications and acquire necessary information for zoning and code compliance review. If no response is received, the application will automatically be denied for failure to provide required information. Applications failing to provide valid contact information (i.e., phone number and/or email address) will be automatically denied.

The two types of businesses eligible for fee exemption are:

  • Temporary Stationary Businesses. Any business activity carried on at the same fixed location for not more than one (1) day per week and not more than four (4) consecutive weeks in one (1) calendar year or any business carried on at the same fixed location in the City for not more than four (4) consecutive days in one (1) calendar year is exempt from the licensing fee per Chapter 5.40 of the Municipal Code.  NOTE: A business physically located on the island does not  typically qualify for this exemption. 
  • Minimum Threshold. Any person or business whose annual value of products, gross proceeds of sales, or gross income of the business in the City is equal to or less than $3,000 shall be exempt from the license fee per Chapter 5.04 of the Municipal Code revised under Ordinance No. 2023-01.

Full License Exemption. The following businesses do not require a business license and are exempt from licensing per BIMC 5.04.080:

  • Farmers and gardeners selling their products on their own land
  • Garage sales
  • Coming onto the island for the mere delivery of goods and services

Show All Answers

1. Who needs a City Business License?
2. How do I apply for or renew a City Business License?
3. Do I need a State of Washington Business License to obtain a City Business License?
4. How much does a City Business License cost?
5. Where do I post my Business License?
6. How do I renew my Business License?
7. Are there City Business and Occupation Taxes?
8. What if my business moves to a new location and/or the mailing address changes?
9. How do I cancel or close my Business License?
10. What if I sell my business?