When Ritesh Shah tried to open his pharmacy in Red Bank, construction was stalled several times by layers of red tape in the form of repetitive inspections he felt were unnecessary and time consuming.
“I have [an] elevator in the building [and] for you to get the elevator inspected, you have to have the town inspector come and check your elevator. [The state] will come check, too,” Shah said. “My question is, what do they both need to check? It makes no sense.
“I also had an issue with the sidewalk. When [the] mayor and council came for the grand opening, we had an issue with the handicap ramp. We did everything according to the compliance of the town engineers, but then they came back and said it was noncompliant [with] the [Americans with Disabilities Act]. Why hadn’t they said before?”
Responding to such concerns, state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-11th District, recently launched ReportRedTape.com, an online intake system for small business owners to air their grievances and get advice for how to cut through some of the red tape they encounter.
“When we get a complaint, our staff talks to the business owner,” Gopal said. “Sometimes these laws are very old that hurt business owners: where they can put signs, when they can open. If the business is having trouble with the town, we’ll call the town. If they’re having an issue with the state, we’ll call the state. Something that happens a lot is a new business will start constriction and the inspector will come by in 30 days and find a few minor problems, and instead of coming back a day or a week later, they’ll come back in another 30 days.”
Gopal came up with the idea based on his experience on the board of the Monmouth County Chamber of Commerce and as president of Hazlet Business Owners Association, a local trade association representing approximately 100 businesses in Hazlet Township. Since launching May 1, the website has fielded about a dozen complaints from business owners like Shah.
“I’m a community pharmacist – I love community,” Gopal said. “The lady at the store down the street knows exactly how I take my bagel and coffee. When mom-and-pop stores come into town to revitalize where business is needed, we’re not getting encouraged [by the regulations]. And oh, the fees! The agencies say you have to do this, this, this. Why didn’t you tell me this before? It’s just such a process,” said Shah.
Gopal hopes to streamline that process for small business owners.
“This website is an outlet for business owners to open up about issues that they’re facing so that we can try to get them some solutions. We want to give them a voice, so they feel like their frustrations will be heard,” said Gopal.
Gopal also launched a series of small business roundtables for business owners to come ask questions of prominent politicians and industry personnel. At the first roundtable May 4, about 75 showed up to talk with Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District.
The next roundtable discussion will be May 30 at Freehold Borough Hall, with NJBIA President Michele Siekerka lined up as guest speaker.