Open a Bar or Restaurant in Panama City

Discover the essential steps and insider insights on How to open a bar or restaurant in Panama City. Learn about legal requirements, location scouting, and health compliance for a successful venture.

Opening a bar or restaurant in Panama City is not just about serving food or drinks; it’s about creating an experience. By combining meticulous planning, adherence to regulations, and a passion for culinary innovation, you can carve your niche in this vibrant market.

Record of Commercial brand

The Process must be carried out by a qualified lawyer, but before continuing. You cannot miss these elements (The name of your business, Logo, the type of property for your restaurant) that will distinguish your brand from the other brands in the trademark registry in Panama.

After having everything ready, it is time to seek the professional services of a lawyer in Panama. Here we tell you all the documents that we must prepare and present to the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MICI) to register your business in Panama.

  1. We complete all the information of the application form Trademark signed by one of our lawyers.
  2. A power of attorney To represent yourself is essential for this process, for that we need your signature and passport.
  3. A Translation of the brand or certain parts of the brand when applicable (If any element of the brand you want to register is not in the Spanish language, we must present this requirement).
  4. Affidavit of Use or intention of the brand (Example in this case of a restaurant:The trademark will be applied specifically to identify and distinguish our restaurant services, including, but not limited to, the preparation and sale of food and beverages, catering, and any other service related to the restaurant industry.
  5. Proof of payment of the corresponding fees and duties (settlement of economy and finance)

We follow up step by step the entire submission process and take care of any additional requirements that the MICI may request from your premises.

Essential Permits for restaurants and Licenses in Panama

  • The Government of Panama issues various permits and licenses, including the Panama income tax service
  • Registration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to acquire a commercial license
  • Obtaining a business social security number from the Panama Social Security Fund Employer Register
  • Registration with the local municipality and compliance with municipal taxes
  • Securing a certificate for pest spraying
  • The pest fumigation inspection is mandatory every four months, and the certificate should be displayed near the main entrance
  • Additionally, a health permit must be obtained from the Ministry of Health.

Health Leaves for employees – Health Card

This type of permissions is managed in theInstitution: Ministry of Health more specifically in the department: General Directorate of Health and it’s a Procedure through which a Health Card is issued, once the applicant meets certain requirements

This procedure is specific for food handlers or operators of health interest.You obtain two cards: the one that certifies good health, which is the white card, and the health training card, known as the green card. which is issued after the white card and after taking the corresponding course at the Health Center or at the Social Security Fund.

Legal recommendations 

Owning a restaurant in Panama can be an ambitious project if you do not have the appropriate information and professionals. In Panama the laws are constantly changing and the authorities are not always very clear with the new legislation and requirements.

These are some points that we consider relevant if you plan to open a restaurant in Panama:

Use appropriate terminology

Be careful with using the word “Grill” in your Affidavit of Use or intention of the brand, The MICI considers that this word is associated with the sale and distribution of alcohol and therefore your restaurant must adhere to all permits and licenses.

  • Request a permit from the Community Board and present it to the mayor of the district where the premises are located.
  • Prove that the premises are less than 500 meters from a public or private hospital, school, religious temple or place of worship.
  • Have a certificate from the Public Registry that certifies the legal existence of the establishment.
  • Submit a memorial addressed to the mayor with the applicant’s information, the type of liquor that will be sold, the hours of operation and the safety and hygiene measures that will be implemented.
  • Pay an inspection and permit fee.

The permit is valid for one year and can be renewed upon request. The mayor may deny the permit if he considers that the establishment does not comply with the legal conditions or if it negatively affects public order or citizen coexistence. In that case, the applicant can file an appeal before the Community Board or before the Supreme Court of Justice.

What are the drinking laws in Panama?

The 500 meter law for alcohol sales in Panama is a rule that seeks to protect public health and prevent excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. According to this law, any establishment that wants to sell liquor in the country must meet the following requirements.

How to Open a Restaurant/Bar in Panama

To open a bar/restaurant in Panama, you need a unique name, decide ownership, register the trademark, obtain business licenses, employee permits, locate a suitable location and furnish it.

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