Registering a Business

1. Registration at the Trade Licensing Office ('Gewerbeamt')
If you want to operate a business, you must always notify the Trade Licensing Office ('Gewerbeamt') before starting up. Which activities require notification, who is responsible for doing so, and what fees will have to be paid is explained in more detail here.
a) Distinction between a Trade and a Liberal Profession in Germany
Before your business can be registered, it must first be established whether the planned activity actually comes under the heading of a trade activity. It means that you should consider whether you will be operating as a trader or a member of the professions. This is important, because if you are not operating as a trader ('Gewerbetreibender'), you do not need to register the business with the Trade Licensing Office ('Gewerbeamt'). The terms ‘Liberal Profession’ and ‘Self-Employment’ are often confused: both traders and members of the professions are self-employed, but not every self-employed person is a member of the professions.
Under Art. 1(2) PartGG (German Partnership Act), a profession “...is generally practised on the basis of a specific professional qualification or creative talent” and can be defined as the “personal, autonomous and professionally independent provision of services of a more elevated nature in the interests of the customer and/or the general public”. However, the decision about whether or not one is actually practising a profession is made on a case-by-case basis.
Any information about the basic characteristics of a trading company, to help in the proper categorisation of such activities, you can find here.
b) Special case: Itinerant Trades
In case you do not want to operate from fixed premises you probably plan to start Itinerant Trades. Itinerant trades include hawking goods and running one’s own stall at a private market.  Anyone wishing to practise an itinerant trade will require a permit under the Industrial Code, known as an Itinerant Trader’s Licence (Reisegewerbekarte). They will also need a special use permit or special dispensation if they want to trade on public thoroughfares. More information can be found here.
2. Other local authorities you have to contact
a) 'Special Use Permit' (Sondernutzungserlaubnis)
Many traders are willing and able to extend their business activities beyond the four walls of their retail premises. Often – especially during the summer months – they wish to set up tables, chairs or flower tubs in front of their café, restaurant or shop. If this encroaches on a public thoroughfare, they will generally require what is known as a ‘Special Use Permit’ (Sondernutzungserlaubnis). Any information about requirements for such a 'Special Use Permit' and any Offices you have to contact can be found here.