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With commercial property, cross your Ts and dot your L&I’s p2

6/26/2015 | Real Estate Blog

The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections has had its problems in the past. The Market Street building collapse in June 2013, for example, highlighted some of the department’s shortcomings. (See our Nov. 1, 2013, post, L&I takes criticism from all sides in June 5 building collapse, for more information.) There had been complaints about failures of all sizes before Market Street, though, and the last two years may not have seen much change.

In some way, it is no surprise that so many people complain about L&I. So many people have to work with one or more of the department’s sections every hour of every day. For the hypothetical restaurant project we were discussing in our last post, there were multiple zoning issues to be addressed, and they would all touch L&I somehow. And, as we said, the list doesn’t stop there.

Licenses: You can’t swing a ball peen hammer at a construction site without hitting something that will need to be inspected by L&I, often several times during the process. That’s just part of the deal, though, and most business owners and certainly most construction and contracting companies are familiar with the constant round of inspections. What inexperienced business owners, like our hypothetical restaurateur, may lose sight of is the “L” side of Licensing and Inspections.

As a business, the restaurant will need a commercial activity license. As a restaurant, it will need a food license. The department also either manages or has some role in the licensing process for things like dumpsters and outdoor advertising. If the restaurant will have outdoor seating, it may need a sidewalk café license.

Our restaurateur will be writing a lot of checks to L&I long before he serves his first customer. Still, while all of this may look expensive and time-consuming, it is more expensive and time-consuming if he doesn’t do it at the right time and in the right way.

We can only hope that he has good, experienced legal advisers at his side.

Source: City of Philadelphia, Licenses & Inspections Department website, accessed June 10, 2015