Two girls with a cute lemonade stand
Photo by monkeybusiness/Deposit Photos

Is it really illegal to run a lemonade stand?

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I read a story today that a 6-year-old kid’s lemonade stand was shut down by cops because she didn’t have a valid permit from the state. What’s up with that?!


Those lawless kindergarten hooligans!

There have been several news reports about little kids’ lemonade stands being shut down, including stories out of Riverside Park, New York in 2009; Portland, Oregon in 2010 and Bethesda, Maryland in 2011.

It is true: To operate a lemonade stand legally — even if it’s just in your front yard — you will need a permit or exemption from your local health department (and possibly a business license, too).

Of course, if you have to file a bunch of paperwork in advance and pay anywhere from $20 to over $100 for a temporary food service permit, it most likely would suck all the fun out of spending a sunny day selling lemonade for fifty cents a cup.

Pucker up

But it’s not just the kids peddling lemonade who have to pay up. The permit rules also apply to hot dog stands, chicken barbeque stands, chili cookoffs, cotton candy stands, and even fundraising dinners.

Essentially, a temporary food service establishment means “a place where food is prepared or handled and served to the public, with or without charge, and which operates at a fixed location in conjunction with a single event or celebration of not more than 14 consecutive days duration.”

What do the permit applications look like? Check out a couple here from Erie County in NY, and Contra Costa County in California. You can run a search for your county name and “temporary food service” to find out about the paperwork required in your area.

In some cases, you will need to not only pay a fee, but also provide proof of Workers’ Compensation Insurance, or file a form attesting that you are exempt from Workers’ Comp.

Lemonade stand
Original photo by serezniy/Deposit Photos

Food safety

The lemonade stand safety guidelines from the city of San Antonio, Texas, included the following:

  • The lemonade stand must have a responsible adult to oversee the entire day’s operations.
  • Lemons should be thoroughly washed before cutting and squeezing.
  • The water used to make the lemonade should come directly from a tap or bottle. DO NOT use the water from a garden hose or similar source.
  • Use a utensil with a handle such as a tong, scoop, cup, or ladle to dispense ice.

See the complete list of lemonade health rules here.

Most states require you have a food handlers’ license/card, too, before you’re allowed to prepare any food to be sold or served to the public. It’s just a simple course — see an online class here offered to people across the US — but in most cases, it’s a necessary step.

The rules vary from state to state, so, of course, be sure to check the laws in your area.

On the sunny side

Leading the charge for these micro-businesses is Lemonade Day, a global national youth entrepreneurship program that teaches leadership and business skills by encouraging kids to start lemonade stands.

In addition, various states across the US have arranged permit exemptions — sometimes as part of an entrepreneurial program for kids.

In 2019, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 234 — the “Save Our Lemonade Stands” bill. Calling it a commonsense law, he said in a statement, “I am proud to have signed HB 234, ensuring that children in Texas will no longer require a permit to operate their lemonade stands.”

“Passing the Lemonade Stand Bill encourages entrepreneurship,” he added, “and allows our children to learn the business skills they will need to thrive in the future.”

Legal-ade

In 2019, Country Time Lemonade “took a stand by introducing Legal-Ade: a crack team ready to straighten out lemonade stand-related permits and fines. Legal-Ade defended kids’ rite to a lemonade stand and all the benefits they bestow.”

Bolstered by the success of bills passed in Texas and Colorado, they started an effort to legalize lemonade stands across the country by giving parents and kids the tools to start changing the laws in their state. In addition, they were reimbursing parents for fines and permit fees.

As part of this endeavor, they created a website — countrytimelegalade.com — that tracks the laws in each state, and keeps a count of where lemonade stands are allowed.

No lemonade for you!

Even celebrities aren’t safe from the lemonade laws. Here’s Jerry Seinfeld with his son Julian and two friends in New York after having their charity stand shut down.