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All local laws are in place to ensure that you run a safe and fair restaurant, but the enforcement and specific rules restaurants must follow differ widely from state to state and city to city. Every state, every city, every county, and even every township has its own set of procedures and regulations that can cause delays if you fail to do the paperwork correctly, and delays cost money. The instructions for dealing with this issue are simple: Know the local rules.

Contact your local attorney and knock on the doors of your local government agencies. Pick up the phone book and find out where they are located and set up a time to chat.

If you don’t know the local rules, you live and you learn as I did in 1985 when I opened an ice cream restaurant in Colorado. Just prior to opening, I thought my team had done a great job pulling it all together. I was impressed, and my team was very confident. So there we were for the final step, and the health inspector, after giving us passing grades on everything that he examined, asked to see our Dairy Use Permit. No one on my team had ever heard of such a permit. “You are required to have a Dairy Use Permit to serve ice cream in this part of Colorado,” the inspector said. Getting the permit created a delay that could have been avoided.

Just like the federal government, local governments have several departments that restaurant owners deal with on a regular basis. These departments include the health department, the fire department, and the building department.

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