Startups face numerous issues when considering the location of the new business.

Many entrepreneurs will concentrate on aspects such as footfall, distance from suppliers, prestige of location, etc.

However, few will consider the legal aspects of starting the business in certain areas.

Barriers To Operations

In Chicago, Illinois there are limits to where those selling alcohol can establish premises. If the business wants to open a shop in one of the city’s dry precincts, they must obtain voter approval from residents within 250 feet off the establishment. Only then can a business obtain a license.

Likewise, certain businesses need permission to set up near nature reserves or conduct work on buildings with heritage protection.

These laws need to be considered when you are starting up a business but that doesn’t mean that your dream location is completely out of the question. And it is also worth remembering that if you can’t open a business in that location, then neither can your competitors, and there might be alternatives you haven’t considered.

Alternative Ways To Open A Business When Zoning Laws Apply

There are different business models available that might help you to get around certain zoning barriers. For example, if you can’t establish a fixed location in an area due to concerns about the impact from a building, perhaps the laws will allow you to sell via a market stall or on a bike and cart. Therefore, you have one building for production and another location where you sell your products.

Alternatively, you could look at selling your product via the internet and marketing in certain locations with leaflets, adverts in local publications and online through social media and pay-per-click.

If you can’t go to the customers, you should encourage them to come to you.

Being Creative With Zoning Barriers

One business person in the UK found an ingenious way to get around zoning issues with their business. The individual wanted to sell ice creams on the beach to customers. However, the local council had decided this wasn’t desirable.

Therefore, the businessman decided he would sell flags on the beach, which weren’t prohibited and give his customers a free ice cream of their choice.

While this gave him an advantage for a while, the council did eventually ban the sale of flags on the seafront.

Is There A Zoning Barrier To Your Startup?

To know whether there is a zoning barrier for your startup, you first need to contact the local authorities and business forums. They will know what the current legislation is for your industry and what steps you might need to take to overcome those barriers.

Business forums can also help you know what resistance there might be with local votes, council permission or planning permission for buildings.

You might also be able to get more information on what has happened with previous applications to overcome the zoning barriers. What happened, what could have been improved upon and what has changed since.

All this information can help you with securing your ideal location.

Don’t Forget Your Other Barriers To Entry

Remember that location isn’t your only barrier, for example, financial difficulties, a lack of skills and a limited support network can all seriously hinder your business’ start.

You might find that the zoning barriers are so significant that your financial backing or support networks are no longer helpful.

For example, certain zoning barriers might require you to pay a premium for your rent, which limits your financial resources and restricts your ability to maintain a healthy cashflow.

Look at how overcoming your zoning barrier will also affect other aspects of your business and make a dispassionate decision – is it worth it?


Zoning barriers exist and your business ideas might come under threat due to local laws and regulations. Carefully look at these laws and consult with local authorities and business forums to see if you can overcome them or whether you need to change your plans.

What barriers have you had to overcome with your startup? What impact did it have on your business?

Let us know in the comments below.

Posted on November 10, 2021 by Sean Miller