Laws for the local lemonade stand

Pocatello/Chubbuck among the more friendly communities for summertime kid entrepreneurs

By Sarah Glenn

The corner lemonade stand is many things to many different people: a lesson in economics, a refreshing treat for the neighborhood jogger, a tradition as old as summertime childhood or something fun to do on a hot, lazy summer day.

But is it illegal?

A police car dash cam video went viral in June after an Overton, Texas police officer rolled up to a child’s corner lemonade stand and informed the surprised parent that they needed a permit in order to operate.

Here’s part of the conversation:

“Did you get a permit from the city to sell this? Mother: No, I didn’t know you had to. Officer: yes, ma’am. Mother: really? We have to have a permit? For a lemonade stand? I had no clue. Okay, so can I run down and get one real quick? I had no clue, I thought a little lemonade stand would be okay. Oh, I understand, so can someone run down and get us one? Officer: yes mother: so do you want some lemonade while you’re here?”

While the permitting process shut the lemonade stand down, locals rallied behind the children and donated tickets to a local water park.

Overton police department officials told the local newspaper, the Tyler Morning Telegraph, that they were just enforcing the law.

So what about locally? Does a Pocatello lemonade stand need a permit?

“I don’t think in this city anyone would give them grief,” said Diane Brush, community services specialist with the Pocatello Police Department. “Kids should not have a problem selling lemonade around here.”

Pocatello’s laws are fairly relaxed when it comes to business licensing. Brush explained that if the lemonade stand was inside a city park, then code enforcement would have a legal right to get involved.

“And that’s just because we can’t be having things done for profit on city property without keeping a close eye on it,” Brush said.

While Chubbuck does have a few additional rules regarding required business licenses, police department officials also said that kids lemonade stands are just fine by them.

“With lemonade stands, we support kids being involved in free enterprise,” said Officer Aaron Harker who works code enforcement for the Chubbuck Police Department. “They tend to be infrequent and very temporary. … We love these kids and we want to encourage them to do that, with their parents involved.”

If the lemonade stand gets to be a frequent and far-reaching business, then the police department will step in and ask them to get the $25 business license. However, Harker has never seen that happen with a local lemonade stand.

Other cities across America aren’t as fortunate when it comes to lemonade stand laws. A Missouri lawyer put together a Google Map of places where child-run concession stands have been shut down over the past several years. The map is peppered with more than 48 instances of local officials shutting down kid-run concessions.

From Iowa to Georgia to Wisconsin, lemonade stand shutdowns are reoccurring items on the annual summertime news cycle. And they have become more common.

“It’s not clear that there’s any one reason that these government officials have become more motivated to interfere with kid-run concession stands,” David Roland, director of litigation and co-founder of the Freedom Center of Missouri, told the Today Show.

In the Overton incident, officials said that allowing one unpermitted stand to operate would set a bad precedent for everyone else; that they were simply upholding the law.   

After the police officer exchange in Texas, a friend of the family went to Overton City Hall to obtain a permit. The $150 fee for the city’s Peddler’s Permit was waived, but staff members informed the friend that they would need to contact the health department.

Under Texas state law, an inspection must be conducted and a permit must be issued in order to sell anything that must be temperature-regulated to prevent bacterial growth, including lemonade.

While locally, lemonade stands are free to operate from the front yard unimpeded, the experts say that when it doubt you should always check out local laws.

“Say, ‘Our children are planning to have a lemonade stand. I’ve heard that some cities have been cracking down on this. What is the city’s formal position on this so we know whether there are any permits we need to get,'” Roland said on the Today Show interview. “Ask those questions because they can help parents steer clear of potential violations.”

“I feel like we need parents who are willing to stand up and say that we don’t need permits or the government’s permission to engage in such a harmless and traditional aspect of American childhood as selling lemonade to friends and neighbors out on the sidewalk,” Roland added.

Reece and Nathan Stinger are a few of our local lemonade entrepreneurs.

Reece and Nathan Stinger are a few of our local lemonade entrepreneurs.

FindLaw.Com published an excellent article on laws that might effect the local lemonade stand. Check it out here.

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