Operate A Bar In An Alcohol-Free Zone? How To Avoid Problems

If you own a bar that was already serving alcohol before your local community established its area as an alcohol-free zone, there is a good chance that you will be able to continue to operate your business in the same way. These zoning laws usually only apply to businesses that are opened after the regulations have been changed, so you should be good to go. However, there are a few things that you should think of to help prevent zoning problems. Otherwise, your business could be shut down, or you could be stuck owing money in fines.

Avoid Making Too Many Changes

First of all, you should know that making too many changes to your business can cause problems. For example, if you change your bar's name, you might not be able to sell alcohol, even if everything else -- including the location and the owner -- is the same. If you are planning on making big changes to your establishment, you should always work with a zoning lawyer first. Then, you can ensure that you won't run into any zoning problems later on.

Don't Close Down for Long

If you close down your bar for long -- such as if you are having personal difficulties and are unable to run it, or if you are doing major renovations -- then you might have problems when you get ready to open up. Depending on the laws in your area and how long your bar is out of business, you may have to start over as a "new" business when you get ready to open your doors. Obviously, this can leave you responsible for following the new laws, including the law that states that you cannot serve alcohol on the premises. 

Consider Different Alcohol-Related Options

You may be able to make some changes to how your patrons consume alcohol to avoid problems in the future. For example, you might find that the regulations state that you can sell beer and wine but cannot sell liquor. Another option is to allow customers to "brown bag" their own alcohol and to charge a cover charge or charge for mixers and snacks. Some area laws ask that you require your patrons to be of a certain age or to become members of your private establishment. Even though you might not be forced to make these changes, doing so can be smart if you ever plan on selling your business or transferring it to someone else's name. A good zoning lawyer can talk to you about the individual laws in your area and can help you make the right decision.

Operating a bar in an area that is now known as an alcohol-free zone can be tough. Luckily, following these tips and hiring a lawyer who is skilled in zoning law can help you avoid any issues.