Restaurant Startup Tip: Know All Applicable Laws

For the first time restaurant owner, there is no shortage of little things you have to learn, things that may have seemed trivial in the past. One such example is that the restaurant entrepreneur should learn all laws, codes, and ordinances that are applicable to their business. Figuring them out before you get started will save you time and money and may help you avoid getting in trouble with the authorities.

The most obvious examples of laws you need to know regard the selling of alcohol. The tightly regulated industry requires different liquor licenses based on your situation and violation of liquor laws would land you and your restaurant in a lot of trouble. There are a lot of less obvious laws and ordinances you have to learn, though.

Depending on the location of your new restaurant, there may be a city, county or state ordinance dictating what time your establishment has to close or when you have to stop selling alcohol. Is it a loud restaurant with a live band? There are probably laws or ordinances saying how far away from your front door that music is allowed to be heard. Most likely the music would also have to stop after a certain time of night. Violation of either of those rules could lead to a fine.

Depending on the location of your restaurant startup, there will also likely be specific laws or ordinances governing your signage – such as where you can post it and what size it can be, the location and amount of outdoor seating, how large your parking lot must be, and more. Of course, there are also specific permits and licenses that must be obtained, such as building permits and business licenses.

These may seem like small, unimportant things. However, imagine if you spent the money on a large highway sign only to learn that the color or size makes it illegal. Or imagine if you have to delay your grand opening by months because a code inspection showed that your kitchen needs to be remodeled. You get the point. These obscure laws and codes may seem unimportant, but violating them can be particularly costly. It’s a good idea to check with legal counsel or someone with code enforcement as you go to ensure that you are in full compliance. A little due diligence will prevent any missteps and will make your path to successful restaurant owner a lot smoother.

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