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Legal Issues
Feb 1, 2018

Common Legal Issues in the Restaurant and Hospitality Industry

Sponsored Content provided by Chris Hinnant - Member Attorney, Barnwell Whaley Patterson & Helms, PLLC

The natural beauty of the Coastal Carolinas makes these areas a perennial favorite with tourists. 

The tourism industry is important to the Carolinas and brings in millions of dollars every year. Restaurateurs, tavern keepers and hoteliers from the Outer Banks to Hilton Head face a number of potential legal issues over and above the challenges associated with day-to-day operations.

An awareness of certain legal issues impacts every business, and the restaurant and hospitality industry is no different. For instance, selecting the appropriate business entity with which to operate under is an important consideration for almost any business, including when a business owner launches a new hotel, restaurant or bar. 

Lease agreements and other commercial property transactions are a common consideration for retail establishments, just as they are with any number of companies. As businesses build their brands through logos, marketing slogans and the like, trademark law can become a consideration. The list of legalities faced by business owners goes on and on.

Some legal considerations, though, if not unique to the restaurant and hospitality industry, are at least more commonplace for those businesses.

A patron who slips and falls on a hotel’s property may assert a claim for premises liability. A bar or restaurant owner whose bartender or wait staff serves alcohol to an underage or intoxicated patron may be faced with a lawsuit if the intoxicated or underage patron later injures another party as a result of their intoxication. Known as dram shop actions, these lawsuits carry significant exposure and are becoming more prevalent in both North and South Carolina.

Immigration issues may even come in to play at hiring time, particularly during the height of the tourist season.

Knowing the legal issues surrounding such risks can help business owners in the hospitality field recognize their potential liabilities and take steps to limit their exposure.

We will be featuring a multi-part series of Insights articles identifying and explaining these and other legal issues faced by business owners and operators in the hospitality industry. The articles will address North and South Carolina law, including both the similarities and pertinent distinctions in the law for both states.

There is no foolproof way to protect business owners in the hospitality industry from every possible liability. However, understanding the most common pitfalls faced by hoteliers, tavern keepers and restaurateurs can go a long way to prevent, manage and limit the risks associated with these types of business operations.

Christopher M Hinnant is a trial lawyer and member of Barnwell Whaley Patterson & Helms PLLC’s Wilmington, NC office. Hinnant is licensed in both North and South Carolina, and concentrates his practice in civil litigation, including dram shop liability, premises liability and restaurant and hospitality law. He has handled cases in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. A significant portion of his cases involves catastrophic injury and wrongful death. Hinnant also has significant experience with medical malpractice matters, complex commercial litigation and construction matters. To contact Hinnant, call (910) 679-4329 or email him at [email protected].

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