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The City Journals

What it takes to open one of those seasonal Halloween stores

Sep 23, 2019 11:09AM ● By Cassie Goff

Spirit Halloween is one of the most successful Halloween retail shops in the US and Canada, with over 1,200 stores. (Cassie Goff/City Journals)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

As the time for trick-or-treating closes in, many parents and children start to keep an eye out for Halloween pop-up stores. These stores, full of packaged costumes, themed decorations, horror animatronics and spooky soundtracks, transform abandoned buildings into seasonal shopping arenas. Halloween pop-up stores can be found all over the Salt Lake Valley.

One of the more well-known Halloween pop-up stores, Spirit Halloween, has over 1,200 locations all over the US and Canada. Those stores hire over 35,000 seasonal employees per year. Besides Spirit, some other pop-up Halloween stores include Halloween City, Halloween Express, Halloween Land and Haunted Halloween. 

One city that will not have a Halloween pop-up store this year in Cottonwood Heights. This is primarily due to the city not having many abandoned or empty buildings. Since these pop-up stores inhabit old buildings to provide a ghostly presence of a store and rarely lease or buy a building, the options within the Cottonwood Heights boundaries are extremely limited. 

“We do have Zurchers,” said Community and Economic Development Director Mike Johnson. “They transform the inside of their store to be completely Halloweenrelated.” (Zurchers is located at 1378 Park Center Drive.) 

If there was available space within the city, individuals wishing to open a pop-up Halloween store would have to obtain a temporary business license from the city. Usually, those individuals would be preparing in late summer/early fall.  

Found within Title 5 – Business Licenses and Regulations in the Cottonwood Heights Code of Ordinances (specifically, section 5.14 – Temporary Licenses), Halloween pop-up stores are not the only businesses that take advantage of these licenses. Many seasonal businesses apply for temporary licenses, like firework stands and snow cone shacks. 

By definition, a temporary business conducts business from “a single designated site or premises without a permanent foundation or location from which goods, merchandise, or services are sold on a temporary or seasonable basis,” (5-14). 

When applying for a temporary business license, applicants are required to turn in a description of the business, a site plan showing available parking, operations timeframe, evidence of a current sales tax permit issued by the state of Utah and written permission from the property owner. 

The application must be submitted at least 10 days prior to the opening day of the business. However, this time restriction may be waived and expedited by the license official upon a payment of $100. 

In addition, applicants may apply for a cash bond or letter of credit in a predetermined amount to cover the cost of disposing all litter, garbage and sewage. 

It’s also important to note that it is illegal to promote or carry on a temporary business within the city without obtaining a temporary business license from the city. 

If the proposed business is allowed within the zoning designations for the desired area, temporary licenses can be granted fairly quickly. Once granted, businesses are required to display the hard-copy version of those temporary licenses, just like any other business license. However, temporary businesses are only allowed to operate for up to 100 (consecutive calendar) days. For re-occurring business, such as Halloween pop-up stores, applicants must re-apply for a temporary license every year.