DCA License Number Citations – not feeling like much of a cultivated garden right now.

Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2012

“Those bills…are a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked, rather than a garden to be cultivated,” said Mr. Bloomberg, who earlier this month compared the living-wage bill to the policies of the former Soviet Union on his radio show. “The council wants to take revenue from owners and give it to a select group of employees. That’s not the way the free market works.”

~~Michael Bloomberg

This is in stark contrast to being cited $1000 for not having our license number on a customer’s receipt. This law is very, very new. However,

“The Law (and Rules) are current as of January 2009. Please note that businesses are responsible for knowing and complying with the most current laws, including any City Council amendments. The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is not responsible for errors or omissions in the handout provided in this packet.”

~~Department of Consumer Affairs

So, you are only given laws and regulations up to 2009. However, you can be cited & fined for laws that have been created between 2009 to the present.

When we opened our store, we did it the right way – we obtained a license and waited for it to arrive BEFORE opening. Instead of risking violation, we paid $500+ for our license and for us to be fingerprinted. We waited for the license to arrive before opening. For those not familiar with how small business operates in New York – this is the equivalent to a Manhattan pedestrian who only crosses the street on a green light. From all sides, I am yelled at for being a square. Paying rent on a space that makes no money. Oh, but I want to do the right thing, I say! We don’t want to break the law just to make some extra money.

We have our license displayed prominently right above the cashier’s head. You can read our license number clearly regardless of where people are moving throughout the store. Some stores have their policies & licenses at chest level, which makes them difficult to read or see when employees are working in front of them. Or they have it posted near the ceiling being obstructed by merchandise. When was the last time you walked into a store and could clearly see a license number? It is rare, but that’s not how it is with us! License, COA, and DCA sign are in prominent view – so well, you can even read the number from outside the store.

There is a law that states that one must have their DCA license number on customer receipts. A lovely young lady from the DCA came in and cited us for not having this number on our receipts that we give customers, and for missing one poster. On our receipt, you will find

  • Your name.
  • Your itemized bill, with charges for each service we have performed.
  • Sales tax as a line item which we collect from every customer(cash OR credit!)
  • Our business information – from our address, contact number, and registered business name.
  • Transaction ID from merchant services if you pay by credit card.

Our receipt is fairly informative, and professional.

If we’d like to just give up, we can pay a $225 settlement.

I wouldn’t even be writing about this if the $500+ you pay for this license came with a book that told you of all the possible violations. I feel like $500 entitles business owners of a list of the possible violations their business may face – at the very least, the basics. If it were a 900 page book that I ignored, I’d just mumble under my breath and go on with my day after cursing “who reads a f&c#ng 900 page book of rules?” What makes this case offensive is that the license fee gets you NOTHING but the license on a sheet of paper, and the poster.

You are never given a rulebook, or a reference to where you can find a list of rules. In this scenario, the DCA can say “you didn’t read the 900 page book, so you get a fine” which is completely fair. What is unfair, is that the only way I have been able to find proof this law exists is through extensive Googling. The only place I can find written proof of this law is in a PDF written by the DCA which appears to be a tourist’s guide to New York City, something very few business owners will ever read!

Where it gets better, is the poster citation. The poster you are given with this license is not the required poster for this license type. You need two posters – not having the second poster is a citable offense. When you contact the DCA to get the poster, they tell you to call 311. When you call 311, they will tell you they have never heard of this poster, and refer you back to the DCA. We went through this for about three hours.

I’d love to bring this up at a hearing, because I feel under the circumstances, the $225 fine is unfair. The DCA creates rules, does not make them available, then cites you for breaking them. Adding insult to injury, a sign we are cited for not having is seemingly unavailable from the department who issued the citation! To keep you from attempting to escalate the issue, they tell the business you may face an additional $775 if you visit the hearing and it is decided in favor of the city.

Many, many businesses in the Midtown Manhattan area have been hit by these extortion artists recently. If you are a small business owner to whom this sounds rigged, let’s get drinks after the shop closes – we have a LOT to talk about!