Everyone knows this, but it's worth repeating: if you want to serve alcohol with food or at a bar you need to apply for a Justices' Licence. As you'll be serving it on the premises, this will be an on-licence. Some restrict what you can sell; some stipulate that you can sell alcohol only with food. If you want people to be able to drink at a bar, you need a full on-licence; and if you want to stay open late, you need a Special Hours Certificate. As of February 2005, local authorities will be given complete power over the granting of licences, and though, in some cases, longer opening hours will be allowed, the application process will be much harder overall. Applying before 7 February next year will save you lots of hassle.
As a commercial operation you will be producing commercial waste. It won't all fit in your wheelie bin - at least not without expensive bribes to bin men each week - so you'll need to organise a pick-up by a waste contractor. You'll also need to recycle your bottles. Contact your local authority or your waste contractor to organise this, and find out the exact requirements of your area.
Your raving days are over. If you own your own business and you play a sound recording in public, there are two separate licence fees that have to be paid. One is to the Performing Right Society (PRS), whose fees are distributed to composers and music publishers, and the other is to Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL), whose fees are distributed to record companies, artists and musicians. Expect to pay about £90 for the PRS licence and £42 for the PPL licence.
If you are setting up a hotel or have extra staff, you might have a housekeeper to help with the washing. But it's probably easier to outsource tablecloths, chefs' jackets, sheets and duvets. Contracts start at about £20 per week. It might be cheaper to do smaller items - pillow cases, napkins, towels - in-house, but remember this means either paying for an industrial unit or risking your home appliance.
Administration and accounts Look into taking a course - computer training and book-keeping at least - if you plan to do the accounts in-house. The various business start-up websites (see page 38) provide all the information you need, but as this can get a bit complicated - and you won't have much time - you may want to get a third-party specialist, such as an accountant, to look after the paperwork. You also need to register as an employer (see Employing staff, page 43) and get the payroll sorted.
Insurance Building, fire, contents, liability - hell, you could even insure your palate if you think it's precious enough. The list is daunting and sounds financially debilitating, but it's essential. Imagine if a guest hurt themselves in the first week and sued? It would be a shame to waste the past two years of planning and then bankrupt yourself for the sake of saving a few hundred quid.
Also, check the conditions of your insurance with regard to kitchen equipment. If you haven't been servicing your fridge and it packs up, the insurance company may not pay to replace it or to cover the business lost. Similarly, fires caused by a deep-fat fryer that hasn't been serviced for six months may not be covered. Read the small print, and expect insurers to be difficult.
Disability discrimination The Disability Discrimination Act is now in force. Make sure your premises are audited and that you take reasonable steps to remove, alter or avoid features which make it impossible - or reasonably difficult - for disabled people to make use of your services. In other words, adjustments must be made that are reasonable for both disabled customers and the business. This hasn't been tested yet, so what is "reasonable" is open to debate and will inevitably change in the future. Being sensible about it is probably the best course.
Credit cards Make sure you have your credit card facilities sorted in good time before you open. There is nothing that will put off smiling customers more than having to dash out in the rain to the cash machine.
HACCP As of 1 January 2006, proprietors of any food-related business will have an added length of red tape to look forward to: the introduction of mandatory HACCP regulations. HACCP (hazard analysis, critical control points) was developed for astronauts but will now become the legally required health and safety procedure when it comes to food.
Whereas now you can simply demonstrate to the environmental health officer that you understand the theory of food safety, by 2006 you will need to have tangible systems in place on site - ie, documentation, rotas and schedules for testing, and manuals - that prove you are monitoring the eight critical points, including delivery, storage, cooking and serving. Although there is still more than a year to go, it could be easiest to put those systems in place when setting up the business.