Texas police shut down lemonade stand. Do kids deserve leeway?

Children opening lemonade stands may face scrutiny under laws requiring special permits for all peddlers, kids and adults alike.

Courtesy of Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation

Two sisters in Overton, Texas learned learned a sour lesson when police shut down their homefront lemonade stand.

As summer arrives and children everywhere make plans to open lemonade stands, including approximately 2,500 kids planning to take part in Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation fundraisers this weekend, many eyes are on Andria and Zoey Green, ages 7 and 8, who had their lemonade and popcorn stand shuttered by city officials for lack of a $150 peddler’s license, according to media reports.

The sisters were attempting to raise $105 to take their father to Splash Kingdom for Father’s Day.

In the end the city agreed to waive the $150 fee for the girls, but the stand is still subject to health department inspection. "It is a lemonade stand, but they also have a permit that they are required to get," said Overton Police Chief Clyde Carter.

A user-made Google Map, showing cities where kids’ lemonade stands have been shut down by officials, reveals just how widespread the trend of enforcing adult licensing restrictions on entrepreneurial kids has become – a far cry from the days immortalized by Norman Rockwell's "Lemonade Stand."

Jeff Cox, spokesman for the City of Salem, Mass., told the Monitor that his city was marked on the map after kids selling lemonade on Salem Common in the August 2005 were ordered to shut down after a nearby sausage vendor complained to police that they were negatively affecting his business.

“The City of Salem is fine with kids having a lemonade stand on their family’s property, but this was a case where they were in the Common where a vendor had paid to sell his wares,” explains Mr. Cox.

Larry Lombardi, business development manager for the City of Norfolk, Virginia, where kids are still free to hawk a cold cup of sunshine on the front lawn, says that while regulations for street vendors have their place, “a little common sense would be nice to see in these situations.”

“Somebody in these situations needs to give a little leeway because it crushes the entrepreneurial spirit. That’s really what our country is all about, that spirit,” Mr. Lombardi says in an interview. “The most common-sense move they could make in Texas now – after the mayor waived the fee – for a little good will, would be to see a line of officers there buying a cup of lemonade from those little girls on a hot day out there in Texas.”

Not all lemonade entrepreneurs are keeping their profits; many are participating in a nationwide fundraiser for Alex's Lemonade Stand, a nonprofit foundation based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

“The lemonade stand is such an American tradition for the summertime," says Gillian Kocher, spokesperson for Alex’s Lemonade Stand. "We do want our volunteers to continue to do this because there are so many important lessons, not only giving back but math skills and social skills. We would certainly hate to see that tradition end or change.”

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer, as the full name implies, raises money to fund childhood cancer research by enlisting volunteers around the country to set up their own lemonade stands and send in donations. The foundation will hold its annual “Lemonade Days” national fundraiser from Friday, June 12 to Sunday, June 14.

The foundation's namesake, Alexandra "Alex" Scott, was diagnosed with a type of childhood cancer before age one. During the second week of June, Alex would run a lemonade stand in front of her family’s Connecticut home. She passed away in August 2004 at the age of eight.

“We do work with our volunteers – young kids a lot of the time, and their parents – to help them figure out what the rules might be in their own municipalities,” Ms. Kocher adds. “We’re lucky that we have not had our volunteers shut down, but it is something that we're looking at.”

It’s difficult to pin down an average income for a child’s lemonade stand, says Kocher, as it can range anywhere from a few dollars to over a thousand dollars. One alternative for those who want to turn lemons into lemonade for the cause is a virtual stand like the one operated by cancer fighter Maya Rigler, age 10, of Pennsylvania who has raised over $130,000 online.

“We know that every penny counts in a fundraiser,” Kocher says. “We like to say that the best-tasting lemonade is the kind that makes a difference.”

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