Starting a new business or acquiring an existing one is full of familiar challenges. Rules, regulations, and paperwork are common across locations. Beyond that, staying in compliance with municipal laws can get a little trickier on a local basis. Cities, towns, villages, townships, and other municipalities may have enacted local laws and ordinances that can bedevil businesses as they get situated.
We won’t waste your time with the wacky lists of how in Snowshoe Falls, Montana, it’s illegal to put a hat on a horse on a Sunday—you know where to find them, and they’re beside the point. Instead, we’d like to highlight more pertinent municipal laws your business should be aware of that can trip you up if you’re not careful.
Some municipalities are much stricter about creating zoning districts than others. For instance, in Houston, Texas, you can find residential, commercial, and industrial units all living cheek-by-jowl on a busy street. However, other cities are more exacting in their demands for proper zoning. Suppose you intend to operate your new business from home. In that case, the ingress and egress of in-person customers may preclude your business from operating in an area zoned for residential use only. This could require maintaining an office outside the home, if you expect in-person customers or clients.
Keeping up Appearances
For many years, Lake Forest, Illinois, hosted a McDonald’s unlike any other. To satisfy the high architectural standards of this old-money Chicago suburb, the Golden Arches exchanged their ready-made fast-food architecture for a rustic farmhouse.
In many American cities, local ordinances forbid certain forms of signage, exteriors, and illumination. Some ordinances are so strict that they tightly regulate fencing dimensions on the property—a detail that requires professional installation.
Familiarize yourself with ordinances concerning what you can and cannot do on commercial property. You don’t need townspeople coming to City Hall to protest your lights.
Know the Liquor Laws
You’d almost need a crane to lift a book of state, county, and municipal laws and ordinances regulating the sale of alcohol. States vary in whether grocery stores can sell beer, wine, and spirits. The hours that permit sales are different, too. Particularly in the southern United States, even decades after the repeal of Prohibition, you still encounter the infamous “dry counties.”
If your business sells alcohol, you need to ensure you’re aware of and in compliance with the local laws that govern your liquor license, especially as you scout out locations and get established.
Well, If We Must Give You One Wacky Law
Southington, Connecticut forbids the public use of Silly String. Pretty silly, indeed.
Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels
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