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Regulations are killing my business

These small businesses are being squeezed by local regulations requiring specific licenses. All are fighting back with the help of the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm.

Washington, D.C. tour guide

small business regulation dc tours
  • Business: Washington, D.C. tour guide
  • The rule: License required
  • Rule maker: The city
  • Penalty: $300 fine, up to 90 days in jail

Every day, a Segs in the City tour takes visitors past the National Monument, tells the story of the nation's capital -- and breaks the law.

It's illegal for guides to provide tours without a city license. That's problematic for Bill Main and his wife Tonia Edwards, who have offered Segway tours of the city since 2005. Most of their 12 guides are college students who tend to commit to the job for a few months. The couple says it's too burdensome to ask students to pay $200 in fees and pass a government exam for temporary work.

"It's entirely hypocritical of the city," Main said. "We have to have a license to speak? It's ludicrous! We drive past the pillars of national pride: The National Archives with the constitution, the Newseum with the First Amendment on the wall."

On principle, Main doesn't require employees to be licensed, and the majority of them are not. But he warns them about the law, pays for the test if they want to take it and gives licensed workers $3 more per hour. Although none have been caught, he fears for his workers every day.

Helder Gil, a city regulator, said the law has been "a requirement for more than a century in order to protect consumers and ensure tour guides demonstrate basic competence in history and the monuments."

- Last updated January 30 2013 11:43 AM ET