Whether you are a seasoned business owner, or new to the “game,” when dealing with the City’s licensing body, one must be proactive and seek out competent counsel who specializes in the field. Doing the right things and doing them early could mean the difference between the grant of license or having to shut down your business.
In Milwaukee, a lot of businesses require certain licenses to operate. For example, a typical gas station may require up to four licenses (filing station license, weights and measures, food dealers license, and tobacco license). Similarly, a neighborhood bar or restaurant might require a Class B Tavern license, along with a food dealers license and Public Entertainment Premises license.
These licenses, once granted, are up for renewal every year. Annually, upon application the City’s Licensing Committee reviews business licenses to decide on whether they should be renewed, suspended, or revoked. The committee’s recommendations are then sent to the general common council, which usually adopts the findings of the licensing committee.
It is not always entirely clear what circumstances (or types of incidents) the licensing committee or district alderperson may find worthy of punishment. That said, almost any interaction between your business, its patrons, or customers and law enforcement, typically, triggers a licensing hearing at the time for renewal. Some more particular examples of incidents that can trigger a licensing hearing includes—neighborhood complaints, loitering, occurrence of crime at or near your business premises, noise complaints, etc.
When it comes to licensing hearings, preparation is everything. Retain competent counsel once you become aware of a potential hearing on your license. Once you become aware of any of these types of incidents, it is important you swing into action. Do not wait until you get a notice for a hearing. In fact, it might be safer to assume that every year, you could be dragged before the committee to defend your license.
Being proactive could involve several things. Follow up with every neighborhood complaints you become aware of regarding your business. Keep in touch and cooperate with local law enforcement agencies regarding any incidents that occur at your premises. Train employees on how to stay compliant with applicable laws and ensure that they have the right credentials. Prioritize the safety of your customers. Most importantly, retain and maintain a relationship with effective counsel well-ahead of any licensing hearings.
Been proactive and seeking competent counsel early could mean the difference between whether you get to keep or lose your business. An attorney can assist you with:
– Following up with an Alderperson to discuss concerns or objections to the license you are seeking.
– Attending licensing hearings and assist with cross-examination of witnesses (i.e., protecting your due process rights).
– Assist with contacting and organizing witnesses in support of your license request.
– Drafting an abatement plan that will outline how you will effectively adjust the roots of your licensing issues.
– Helping you understand the hearing and appeal process.
Obtaining and maintaining a business license in Milwaukee requires vigilance. One unfortunate adverse incident, and you can have your business shut down for days and, sometimes, forever. More than ever, it is important for business owners in the City of Milwaukee to be proactive about their licenses and seek out competent representation.
Attorney Emil Ovbiagele, JD, MBA is the Founder/Managing Attorney of OVB Law & Consulting, S.C. He specializes in civil litigation and quasi-judicial hearings. He represents business owners and entrepreneurs before the Milwaukee Licensing Committee and counsel’s business on licensing issues. Emil is known for his dogged advocacy, meticulous preparation, and pragmatic counsel when it comes to licensing matters. For more information, feel free to contact him at 414-585-0588 or info@ovblaw.com.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!