SmallBiz Small Talk Local Laws

In this Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, photo, Annie Venditti, vice president of operations at clothing retailer American Rhino, stands for a photograph in the store, in Faneuil Hall Marketplace, in Boston. At the age of 23, Venditti was learning about the complexities of building and liquor laws. The company did the smart thing, and got a consultant to guide them. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK — When American Rhino, a retailer inside Boston’s Faneuil Hall, expanded to an unused space on the landmark building’s second floor, the company discovered the labyrinth that is local laws and ordinances.

“There were lots of twists and turns — you really don’t know what’s going to happen next,” says Annie Venditti, the company’s vice president of operations. “You learn by trial and tribulation.”

As American Rhino renovated the space, it had to work with the Fire Department, going through multiple inspections that turned up more requirements it had to comply with — for example, where lights had to be placed. Then, when the space was ready and the retailer wanted to rent it out for events, there was back-and-forth with liquor licensing officials.

State and local laws and ordinances can be vexing for small business owners who find they have a list of requirements to comply with while trying to run their companies. And laws continually go on the books as officials look after the welfare of citizens, workers and the environment. The laws and ordinances may affect businesses of all sizes, but small companies can find compliance more difficult because they don’t have employees whose job is to keep abreast of new requirements.

Owners also must comply with federal laws and regulations that can be seen as more burdensome than state and local requirements, in part because tax and health laws and rules affect every company, and labor laws create responsibilities for every employer. There are also thousands of federal regulations that individually affect smaller numbers of businesses, often because they govern specific industries, although the Trump administration has been eliminating or rewriting some of those rules.

Many companies, including American Rhino, turn to consultants and professionals to help ensure that they comply with rules, whether they’re doing construction, running a retailer, restaurant or medical facility, employing people or just paying taxes. Consultants and pros like lawyers and accountants are continually on the lookout for changes in requirements; while many take effect Jan. 1 or July 1 in any given year, others can become effective on a less memorable date or may be immediately enforceable.

Technology consultant Larry Kovnat is hearing more from his small business clients these days — they need to know about a new law aimed at protecting New York residents’ private information from cybercriminals. The law, the Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act, known informally as the SHIELD Act, broadens the types of information to be protected and the types of data breaches that must be protected against. It makes anyone, a person or a business, that owns or licenses a New York resident’s private information responsible for reporting a breach.

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