The Grapevine

Watch Your (Regulatory) Step

May 10th, 2016

Did you know that it is illegal to ride your bike while holding a glass of wine in a national park? I’m a pretty avid cyclist – and frequent consumer of wine – so how this nugget escaped me is a mystery. [level-members]

Mysterious as it may be, it’s not a regulation that wine shop owners need to worry about. But … there are plenty that we do need to keep in mind, and there are not infrequent changes in most states to the regulations that apply to wine shops.

A recent Washington Times article lays out some of the more ridiculous regulations that can ensnare small businesses of any stripe, but particularly wine-related businesses.

The real issue for small business owners isn’t so much staying on the right side of the regulations – though that’s important, of course – but putting a plan in place to make sure you’re aware of the regulations and any changes.

Following industry organizations and media outlets is certainly a good idea. A site like Ship Compliant can be helpful even though it is not really aimed at wine retailers.

Talking to your accountant on days other than April 15th every year is a good idea. They’ll likely be aware of broad changes you might not get wind of any other time.

Similarly, a good legal advisor is worth staying in touch with even if you aren’t negotiating contracts or leases or handling other obviously legal-intensive tasks.

Finally, don’t discount the value of keeping in touch with your colleagues and competitors. As a group, you will likely know the regulatory landscape better than anyone. The wisdom of the crowd means you don’t have to know everything to keep on the right side of the local constabulary.