When small business owners think about ice cream trucks, those thoughts don't usually involve ice cream purveyors who are scofflaws. Unless they park in front of your business, distract employees, and/or draw your customers out of your business.
However, the recent citywide ice cream truck bust in NYC can teach small business owners and entrepreneurs some valuable lessons.
Apparently, in New York ice cream trucks can do some big business but as everyone knows, parking is tight in NYC. This leads to lots of parking tickets for illegally parking to satisfy the needs of ice cream hungry city dwellers. And, to keep those margins tight, many ice cream trucks operate without the proper permitting. Rather than pay the fines and penalties as well as the countless traffic and parking violations, some operators just re-register their ice cream trucks under different shell corporations without any assets.
Unfortunately for those vigilante ice cream trucks, as a result of Operation Meltdown (yes, the NYC legal authorities actually called their operation that), over 40 trucks were impounded and taken off the streets.
The Lesson for All Small Business Owners
Simply put, if you operate a business, you are responsible for the permitting and fees and licenses and all the other legal stuff. It may be tempting to just operate without thinking about it, but if you're running any business, it's on you to make sure you're following the law.
You've heard it before, and if you asked any lawyer, they'd tell you again, ignorance is no excuse in the law. Although having not known something might make the punishment a little lighter, often it simply doesn't matter, especially when it comes to business. So if you're running any business, even if it's just a side job where you mow lawns or shovel driveways for neighbors, or drive an ice cream truck over the summer, if you're making more than a couple hundred bucks a year, consider talking to a business attorney to make sure your gig doesn't end up costing you more than you can make out of it.