READ THE SMALL PRINT (Legal Stuff Affecting Your Business)

1. Liquor License – A liquor license allows a restaurant to serve alcoholic beverages for consumption on the restaurant’s property. However, getting a license in most cases is not automatic and it’s a time-consuming process. Therefore, it’s best to apply for a license as early as possible so you’ll have it in time for your grand opening.

If you are purchasing a restaurant that already has a liquor license, be aware that the license is not transferable and the new owner has to go through the approval process.

OK, now that you’ve gotten your license, make sure you don’t lose it. Know the law and always be mindful of the consequences of losing your license.
One of the leading firms that can help protect you is Visualize Legal LLC.

2. Health and Safety Concerns – Health and safety isn’t just a health and safety issue, it’s also a legal issue. Restaurants in particular, are subjected to numerous regulations regarding food safety and food health. Restaurants must obtain a permit to prepare and handle food. So, make sure your staff is trained, you’re always in compliance and your license is current.

More so than other businesses, restaurants will be monitored by local health departments. Owners should expect and plan for frequent and detailed inspections usually go beyond how the food is cooked and where it’s stored. Inspectors will examine cooking equipment, refrigeration systems, waste disposal systems and all items that either come in contact with food or are located near the food. There are also legal issues surrounding safety. Some regulations require restaurant owners to provide their workers with certain equipment, such as eye, face and hand protection. Regulations may also cover certain surfaces where food is stored, even for short periods or surfaces that are prone to get slippery or contaminated.

Before you open your restaurant, you should study as much as you can about health and safety laws. If you don’t, be prepared to suffer some extremely harsh penalties.

3. Insurance – Every business needs a variety of insurance programs and restaurants need more than most. In addition to the basics like workers comp, fire and theft, property & casualty, healthcare, etc., restaurants are particularly vulnerable to problems because of everything that can go wrong from handling food, being exposed to working around hot stoves, working with low education, high turnover employees who may not be experienced or have language difficulties and a variety of other problems that occur whenever you are dealing with the public.

Our suggestion is you call in an insurance specialist who specializes in dealing with restaurants, not an insurance salesperson who is more interested in selling you a particular policy than providing the proper coverage you need to protect your entire business, not just one aspect of it.

4. Employment – This is a particularly sensitive area. Today, it seems that almost everyone is obsessed with everyone else acting perfectly every time and since we live in a very litigious society, one small mistake can result in one big and expensive settlement.

Thankfully, there are published guidelines and experienced attorneys that can help you navigate this landscape and prevent you from serving time when you should be serving your customers. OK, the likelihood of you serving time is probably small but the likelihood of fines, penalties, legal fees and settlements are much higher. So, before you open your doors to welcome your first guest, make sure you consult with an attorney that has restaurant experience.

5. Music – We all love music and for many restaurants, recorded music plays an integral role in adding to the dining experience. However, what many restaurants don’t know is that they may need a license to play music or they may be violating copyright laws. Plus, some cities require a special license to play live music. If you’re planning to add music to the menu in your restaurant, make sure you have the proper license and you’re not violating any laws.

I get it. We all hate attorneys but, I promise you if you hate paying to hire an attorney that prevents you from getting into trouble you’re really going to hate how much it’s going to cost you to hire one to get you out of trouble. Every owner needs to be aware of all their legal obligations and the myriad ways you need to protect yourself. Bad things happen. Don’t assume you’ll be the exception. Be prepared or be sorry.