Quick Reference Guide for Businesses

Like you, the Town of Nantucket is excited for a safe, successful and memorable tourist season and we are reminding you that the Town is here to help you during these busy summer months, as well as throughout the year. As you are aware, Nantucket has many bylaws and regulations that govern the way businesses add to the unique character of the island. All Town codes and regulations can be found on the Town’s website at www.nantucket-ma.gov or by a call to one of the numbers provided. Whether you are a long-time, year-round business owner or a new seasonal manager, please familiarize yourself with the policies that make Nantucket such a wonderful place to live and visit. Below are some common reminders to help make this season the best ever!


Unless your establishment has a seasonal or year-round liquor license, the pouring of alcohol for public consumption is prohibited by state law. Shops often wish to have wine and cheese socials or other events involving alcohol for customers, however this practice is illegal. State law (MGL c. 138, § 17A) allows the Town to grant One-Day Pouring Licenses for establishments. For information regarding One-Day Pouring Licenses, please contact the Licensing Agent at 508-325- 4137.


Cigarette disposal containers, urns and other devices placed on public property are prohibited. All businesses are reminded that they should routinely sweep and tidy the sidewalks in front of their establishments, particularly of cigarette butts.


Per Town Code Chapter 97: Article 1: Merchandise and Wares, businesses are not allowed to display, store or maintain any merchandise (except flowers, potted plants and window boxes of flowers) on any Town street or sidewalk or on the exterior (including any door or shutter which, when opened externally, displays merchandise or signs) on any commercial structure. For more information contact Town Administration at 508-228-7255.


All entertainment in areas where the public has access or is invited - from amplified music to live bands - requires licenses. The Town Code Chapter 105 Article IV: Pubic Entertainment allows for One-Day Temporary Entertainment Licenses to be issued by the Town. For more information, please contact the Licensing Agent at 508-325-4137.


Per the Town’s 2015 Annual Town Meeting Article 80: Bylaw Amendment Ban on Sale and Use of Balloons, helium balloons are in the process of being prohibited anywhere on the island, including in or around a business. Balloons without helium are permitted, however they are not permitted to be attached to the outside of your business structure.


The Public Health Office is responsible for the issuance of required food service permits. If your establishment does not have a common victualler license but wishes to serve food for a one-time event, please contact the Public Health Office at 508-228-7200 x-7014. And remember, lemonade stands and bake sale tables are not allowed on Town property without Town permission and they must have Public Health approval even if on private property such as a store or gallery!


Commercial property or properties containing mixed uses with a commercial component may not have lighting which exceeds the average minimum levels listed in the IESNA Recommended Publications. Blinking, flashing, moving, revolving, scintillating, flickering, changing intensity and changing color lights shall be prohibited except for temporary holiday displays, lighting for public safety or traffic control. Please see Town Code Chapter 102: Outdoor Lighting for additional information regarding the Town’s lighting bylaws, or contact the Lighting Enforcement Officer at 508-325-7587.


Know your occupancy! Overcrowding your establishment is illegal and dangerous!


Per Town Code Chapter 97: Article II: Obstructions on Sidewalks, signs advertising a business or special event are not permitted to be displayed on any Town street or sidewalk. Additionally, per Chapter 97: Merchandise and Wares, Article 1 signs are not permitted on the exterior (including any door or shutter which, when opened externally, displays merchandise or signs) on any commercial structure. For more information please contact the HDC Administrator at 508-325-7587. Also, as a friendly reminder, any changes to your establishment’s official business sign must first obtain approval from the Historic District Commission’s Sign Advisory Committee. For more information please contact the HDC Administrator at 508-325-7587.


Per Chapter 97: Article II: Obstructions on Sidewalks, signs advertising a business or special event are not permitted to be displayed on any Town street or sidewalk. If you need to block all or part of the sidewalk or street for a particular temporary purpose (ie, need ladders to paint building, clean windows, make necessary repairs) you must receive permission to do so, in advance. Such blockages are generally discouraged between June 15 and Labor Day; and, holiday weekends unless it is unavoidable. For a one-time Street or Sidewalk Blocking Permit, please contact Town Administration at 508-228-7255.


Nantucket’s Single-Use Plastics Ban prohibits these single-use petroleum based plastic products from being commercially used, sold or distributed: 

  • Straws and drink stirrers
  • Flexible can and bottle yokes
  • Drinking cups and lids
  • Plates, bowls, and eating utensils
  • Drinking water in plastic or non-recyclable containers of one liter (34 ounces) or less
  • Single-use non-recyclable beverage pods
  • Flushable wipes containing plastic fibers, cloth fibers and/or anti-bacterial chemicals;
  • Plastic stick ear swabs.

For more information on the Single-Use Plastics Bylaw, visit: https://nantucket-ma.gov/1475/Single-Use-Plastics-Ban


If you are doing ANY construction, including a temporary stage, additional seating, tent or other structure, you will need a Building Permit. Please contact the Building Office at 508-325-7587.


Businesses are not permitted to place their own benches, bike racks, reservation stands or other street furniture on the sidewalks or other public property without permission from the Town. Although this is a very generous gesture for the Town and our visitors, such actions are regulated and require permission. For more information, please contact Town Administration at 508-228- 7255.


Please help make a difference:

  • Work individually AND collectively. For example, pre-Covid, several Lower Broad Street restaurants collaborated to secure a dumpster for their trash. 
  • Help your patrons (particularly take-out customers) understand that they need to act responsibly with their trash.   
  • Adopt your street front…and someone else’s.  Keep Nantucket clean!
  • Don’t use the trash barrels on the streets for commercial or household trash. MA General Law Chapter 125 §7 prohibits use of Town receptacles for commercial or household disposal with a fine up to $200 per incident.
  • Don’t think about trash as a downtown-only or “near your vicinity only” issue.  If trash from your establishment dots the shoulders of our roads, or other areas, please take the responsibility to clean it up regularly.
  • Get your employees onboard to help!

Read a letter from the Town Manager to Island businesses on How To Prepare for Summer 2022.


Nantucket has several business zones, with different uses allowed in each. Many businesses have special permits in place that allow them to operate. Check with the Planning and Land Use Services Department (PLUS) prior to making any changes to your business, such as adding seating, making changes to the use of the property, altering exterior features like patios or parking lots, or adding additional services. PLUS can be reached at 508-325-7587.

Click here for a downloadable version.