Getting the Government's Permission to do Business

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we recently won the concession for Elk Creek Marina on Blue Mesa Lake, Colorado.  For the last week, I have been scrambling to take the steps necessary to take over this business without disrupting service to customers. There are a lot of things to do from a customer service standpoint to get the business up and running, but there is a staggering list of permissions and licenses we need from the state of Colorado and other government bodies to be able to conduct this business, particularly since this is our first entry into Colorado.  Here is what we know we need so far, though I caution that this list continues to grow at the rate of 2-3 more items a day as we learn more:

  • Our corporation must register with the Colorado Secretary of State as a "foreign" corporation, foreign in this case meaning that we are registered in another state.
  • To register as a foreign corporation, we need to hire a person to be a "registered agent" to be a contact with the state.  The only real purpose of this person I have ever found is to provide an avenue for mail to get lost
  • We have to register to pay Colorado unemployment insurance tax
  • We have to register to withhold Colorado income taxes from our employees
  • We have to register to pay state corporate income taxes and franchise taxes
  • We have to register to collect sales taxes
  • I think we have to get a special license for collecting electricity taxes, since we sell power to boats at some of the docks
  • We need to go through an extensive application process to transfer three current liquor licenses into our name.  I wrote about liquor license hassles here.
  • The person on the phone today told me a corporation in Colorado cannot own more than two liquor licenses.  If this is true, we will have to form a second company in Colorado, repeating all the tasks above plus the initial work just to form the company
  • I need to fly to Colorado to get fingerprinted for my FBI background check that is needed for the license.  This despite the fact that I have been fingerprinted and background-checked for liquor licenses in several other states.
  • Since the company will hire out fishing guides from the marina, the company has to have a Colorado outfitter license, which includes a 13 page application and very detailed regulations and required contract terms I must use to provide the life-and-death service of helping people find fish.
  • The outfitter license requires that I post a bond, which in turn requires I submit detailed financial and background information to get the bond approved
  • Our managers need to attend food handlers training in Colorado.  Of course, they have attended the exact same course in California, but Colorado wants them to sit through it again within their state's borders
  • We need to fill out a pretty elaborate application to sell Colorado fishing licenses, and may need to post another bond to do so. (Update: Confirmed, we need a $4000 bond).
  • We will likely need an occupancy license from the county
  • We will need a health department inspection and license for the two retail stores, since they sell packaged foods, and a more detailed inspection for the restaurant
  • We will need a fire inspection of the restaurant
  • We will need Coast Guard inspection and certificate for the docks
  • We will need to change the registration of all 45 boats that are kept at the marina for boat rentals  (imagine standing at the DMV to register 45 cars).
  • We will need Coast Guard inspection of all the boats

75 days until we open.  Eeek.


  1. Dave:

    Reminds me of a story I picked up on in the Wall St. Journal about how many entrepreneurs do not avail themselves of help from federal agencies.

    I explain here:

    Sorry for not putting in a live link; I guess they're not allowed on this blog....

  2. BridgetB:

    Coyote you are a hero for running that gauntlet to the end.

    Good luck and good premises.

  3. Gut Rumbles:

    hoops and hurdles

    I've often thought about starting my own business. I think I have some pretty good ideas for making money, and...

  4. Stephan:

    coyote, its too bad that yuor business is not one that can be taken underground easily. Or go and register offshore, to mitigate some of this nonsense.

  5. Pelle:

    Oh man. That is terrible. I have written a piece on my blog about how all these idiotic rules kill business. I am also trying to create a global guide written by bloggers with hopefully some helpful tips on avoiding all the red tape.

  6. EconoTrix:

    How the Borg creates the informal economy

    There really is no need to comment much on this. Just go to the Coyote Blog to see the pain...

  7. Minor thoughts:

    Mother, May I (Start a Business)?

    If you live in Colorado, you may be surprised at how hard it is to start a business. Coyote recently won a concession to manage the Elk Creek Marina on Blue Mesa Lake. He posted a list on Getting the Governments Permission to do Business. ItR...

  8. Neo:

    It is healthy, I shall come on your site more often, thank.

  9. michelle:

    Hi, first time here. I was reading your long list of how to start a business. First, let me say I totally feel for you. Second, I'm needing an little help & am interested in your expertise. My family is attempting to start a realestate business. It will be based out of Utah but I am trying to find out what I need to do to start a branch in my own home. I'm not sure where to even start. I was reading you list but alot of that doesnt pertain to me such as the employee stuff cuz there is just me here in colorado (unless it requires everyone who will be involoved with the whole company) and the liquor license stuff doesnt apply to me either. But the foreign license stuff may be a thing I will need to deal with. Can you help at all? I would appreciate it. So far, I think I need to start with the Colorado Sec. of State, is that right?
    Thank you & good luck with your business.