Opening a restaurant can be an extremely expensive proposition, but the various licenses do not add up to a great expense. Compared to renting a space and raising money for salaries while the restaurant operates at a loss at the beginning, licenses are cheap.
Food Handlers License
No restaurant can operate without one of these. They are available after a small test, usually for a fee of $10 as of 2010.
Food Health Inspections
The health inspectors retain the right to inspect your kitchen at any time and revoke your food handlers' license or demand that you close for a period of time, which could lose you lots of money.
These are expensive enough that the very smallest restaurants may consider doing without them. For a larger restaurant, they will be only a small portion of your budget.
Liquor License Cost
These usually cost at least $300, and can be much more expensive than that (up to $1,000). The price depends on the state you are in and how many people you intend to fit into your restaurant.
In most states to operate a restaurant or a business of any kind, you need a business license, which is usually issued for free by the town or city in which you are doing business. All it does is give you a registration number and the right to conduct business in that area.