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When we advise small business owners to consult with a local attorney about their companies, it's for good reason. Many states, cities, and municipalities have some obscure and head-scratching statutes that only someone familiar with the area will know about. And while you might be inclined to write these legal oddities off as unenforced historical outliers, the last thing you want is your small biz grinding to a halt because of an arcane ordinance you overlooked or ignored.
Here are five (or so) of the weirdest state laws that can have a serious impact on your small business:
Hawaii makes it illegal to "erect, maintain, or use a billboard or display any outdoor advertising device." The prohibition dates back in 1927 and was intended as "urban beautification" initiative. So if you're thinking of advertising your business on any of the Hawaiian Islands, make sure it fits one of the dozen exceptions to the rule, or keep it small.
We've all heard about so-called "blue laws" that regulate the days and times alcohol can be sold. But a couple states take this to the extreme. Liquor stores in Indiana can't sell chilled water or soda, although warm is fine, and can't sell milk at all.
And Alaska notoriously has a law prohibiting a person from getting drunk in a bar and staying there. Specifically, the statute says, "A drunken person may not knowingly enter or remain on premises licensed" to sell alcohol, though the bars themselves may only be responsible for barring already drunk patrons entry.
Texas may seem like the Wild West, but when it comes to small business, you better have your licensing in order. For instance, before you put "Interior Designer" on your business card and start telling your clients where to put that couch, you need to register first. And you better be good. You can be disciplined for:
You already know the federal tax code is as complicated as it can be. But that's nothing compared to some cryptic state tax codes. Did you know that Kansas has a hot air balloon tax? Arkansas has a tattoo tax? And Colorado taxes coffee lids?
If you're freaking out that some weird state law is going to sink your small business, don't worry -- get in touch with a local business attorney and get the info you need.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.