Country Time Offers ‘Legal Ade’ to Entrepreneurial Children Thwarted by Regulations
Operating a business generally requires a permit, and food-sellers are subject to the requirements of state and local health codes.
The traditional American lemonade stands set up by children in the summertime to make pocket change have a problem: they are illegal in many places.
Operating a business generally requires a permit, and food-sellers are subject to the requirements of state and local health codes, says Nick Sibilla, a legislative analyst for the Institute for Justice.
“The process can vary dramatically depending on the town, though they tend to involve paying a fee that costs several hundreds of dollars,” said Sibilla. “It probably goes without saying, but I don’t think most eight-year-olds can afford that.”
For example, the city of Austin had a day in early May when children were exempt from the $35 permit fee and the $425 fee to use public property, but only on “Lemonade Day,” says Sibilla. In addition, the city still forced kids to comply with temporary food service regulations, such as how many parts per million of chlorine their wash water should have, says Sibilla.
Kids ‘Caught Up Inadvertently’
Country Time Lemonade, a Kraft-Heinz-owned beverage company, initially found it difficult to believe police were shutting down children’s stands, says Amanda Zerbib, a company spokesperson.
“When we saw these stories about lemonade stands being shut down for legal reasons, we thought it had to be an urban myth,” Zerbib said. “After looking into it and seeing even more instances, we realized these weren’t myths, they were real stories.”
Kids are getting shut down by rules not made for them, says Zerbib.
“Presumably, the laws are in place to protect against illegitimate small businesses without food safety permits, and kids’ lemonade stands are caught up inadvertently,” Zerbib said.
Country Time has begun a campaign to exempt lemonade stands from permitting laws in every state, setting up a “Legalize Lemonade” website.
The campaign has met with some success, though the scope of these laws varies by state. For example, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law on April 1 a bill that includes businesses other than lemonade stands, states a report by Colorado Public Radio (CPR) on the same day.
“The law prohibits local government or any agency of local government from requiring a minor to have a license or permit to run a small and occasional business,” CPR states. “The business must run fewer than 84 days per year and must be far enough away from another commercial entity.”
In contrast, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on June 10 signed into law a bill preventing local governments from regulating, licensing, permitting, or imposing a fee for the occasional sale of nonalcoholic beverages by those under 18 on private property or in a public park.
Country Time also offers “Legal-Ade” of up to $300 to reimburse families for fines or permit costs for lemonade stands, through its website. The company has received five submissions for reimbursement, and they expect to see more, says Zerbib.
Country Time reserved $30,000 for Legal-Ade for the 2019 season. Any money not claimed will be donated to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Country Time’s nonprofit organization dedicated to ending child cancer, says Zerbib.
Claims must include an uploaded image showing proof of payment of a fine or permit fee. Children operating the lemonade stands must be 14 years old or younger.
Health Departments ‘Biggest Antagonists’
Sixteen states now have laws protecting lemonade stands, according to Country Time’s “Legalize Lemonade” map. Business-minded kids must face the bureaucracy in the 34 other states, say Sibilla. However, the laws are changing rapidly.
“Fortunately, these bills are pretty popular, so there isn’t that much organized pushback per se,” Sibilla said.
“But when there is, local health departments are typically the biggest antagonists, because they see any form of deregulation as a potential threat to public safety, no matter how farfetched,” Sibilla said.
‘A Tradition, Not a Crime’
Lemonade stand deregulation is part of a larger push to deregulate sales of homemade food, says Sibilla. Every state except New Jersey has some sort of legal allowance for so-called cottage food.
“Lemonade stands are being shut down because of old and arcane, yet very real, permit laws,” Zerbib said.
“Country Time believes that lemonade stands should be a tradition, not a crime,” Zerbib said. “[We] want to protect this tradition and give our customers the tools to take action in their states to ensure that lemonade stands are available for everyone.”
Juliana Knot (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Grand Rapids, Michigan.