If you are about to open a small restaurant and this is your first restaurant, you need to understand the importance of consulting with a restaurant attorney. Large restaurant chains have the luxury of using lawyers when the need arises, especially with lawsuits. This is a reactive approach, but as a small restaurant owner, you need to be proactive and consider speaking to an attorney before you open up your business. The following are a few ways they can help.
To understand local zoning laws
Often, zoning laws are more complex than a simple division of commercial versus residential zones. There may be an ideal spot for your new restaurant, but you may have limitations on the kitchen equipment that is allowed or the parking in the area. If you are looking to purchase property for your restaurant, it is imperative that you consult with a restaurant attorney regarding zoning laws. If you are looking to lease, you should not be dependent upon the property owner for legal information about zoning laws. In this case, you still need to consult with an attorney.
To understand government regulations
There are many laws that are made at the state level, but the real problem comes from understanding the many regulations at the city level. There can be big differences between cities in what you can and cannot do, as well as how you can do it. These variations can make it more beneficial to open your restaurant in one city rather than another. An attorney can explain how the regulations of one city may compare to others, and an attorney can also explain all the licenses and permits you will need to operate your restaurant in different cities.
To determine if incorporation is best for you
A business can be organized in several ways. The most common are partnerships, sole proprietorship, and corporations. Often a small business is simply a sole proprietor, but because you will have a restaurant, you may want to consider incorporating. Restaurants are open to the public, and occasionally a person might get hurt, then sue you. Of course, you will have liability insurance, but this policy will only cover you up to the limits of the policy. After this, you can be sued for your personal assets. One of the great advantages of incorporating is that your personal assets are then protected. Only the corporation can be sued. However, there are also disadvantages. An attorney can explain which may be best for your restaurant.
You should consult with a restaurant attorney before you open up your restaurant, or even select the location. An attorney can explain zoning laws, as well as the regulations regarding your new restaurant. They can also discuss with you the advantages of incorporating.