How has the smoking ban affected your business? Do you see this regulation as being stifling to restaurants like yours?
It began in the summer while MSU was still on break and it initially increased our food sales and moderately reduced drink sales. Now that we’re in the fall, drink sales are still not as high and food sales are slightly less but it has not dramatically hurt our business.
How hard is it for you to hire new workers? What qualifications must you fulfill from the state?
Not hard at all. We just hire a new employee, train them on the liquor laws and on the ways of the restaurant. Nothing from the state hinders our hiring process.
Does the state business tax hinder your restaurant?
Do you support Snyder’s proposal of a corporate profit tax? Do you feel the current tax system is effective?
I haven’t heard all about his proposal yet so I couldn’t comment on it very well.
Is it difficult to follow the state’s varied liquor laws? What obstacles do these regulations present to your business?
Well it’s a bit tricky, like anything else and at any time any restaurant can potentially violate a regulation or liquor law. Anyone from the Michigan Police Department can walk in here and always find something that you could be violating but it’s still a fair law. It’s important because it’s primarily set up to protect the operator and it really helps the consumer as well.
Is there anything else that hinders your business as implemented by the government?
I think that the regulations are all justified; nothing sticks out largely to me. John Engler privatizing the liquor system a while back still sticks in my mind but other than that we haven’t had any major troubles.
Do you feel the government should give businesses and restaurants more help in times like this, with a recession, or allow businesses to have freer reign?
Well, you always have the far right conservatives who believe businesses should be free and open but then you have the moderate lefts who believe there should only be a few regulations. And of course the far left thinks there should be bunch of regulations. But I kind of straddle the fence on that issue. You know, I’m an entrepreneur so I don’t want the government getting in my way but I understand there are needs that the government must fulfill. Maybe if the SEC and the government had stepped in a little earlier the current recession wouldn’t have been so bad.
From your experience, is it difficult to start a small business or restaurant in Michigan? In other words, is the opportunity to start a small business open to most people of Michigan?
Well funds and motivation are the two most important things needed to start a business in current times. For the restaurant owner availability is more limited because of liquor licenses. The state doesn’t just hand out liquor licenses to any restaurant partly to protect the consumer and the state just wants to control how much alcohol is out on the street and one way they can do that is through regulating who gets a liquor license. But financial obstacles are just the greatest obstacles because it is so difficult to start a business with little funds. You don’t see an underfunded business or restaurant go very far in this economy because it just takes so much financial support to begin a business in this economy.
Have you ever had serious problems with the state or its departments while you were running your business?
I’ve been the owner of the Peanut Barrel since 1980 and never had any problems.
How have you been able to survive in this tough economy in recent years?
We as a business have done reasonably well in the current economy and recession. The Peanut Barrel has been in business since 1973 and the economy has probably turned down about 5 times since our opening. During those times and recently you know, some of the regular people won’t come by as often but there are still people who try out different bars and restaurants in local areas. We are fortunately in one of those areas that attract a lot of local people and so our location kind of provides insulation.
What changes would you make to the Michigan legislature regarding business if you could?
None. The laws are in place to protect the owners and the consumers.