With summer approaching, many a young, budding entrepreneur will find ways to earn extra cash. Babysitting, lawn mowing, dog walking and running a lemonade stand are all popular summer jobs for kids. But did you know that the last one may be illegal?
Last week, the state of Utah drew attention to this issue by officially making it legal for kids to open lemonade stands or run the occasional business. You wouldn't think such a law would be necessary, but in most states, the harmless business pursuits of kids can get shut down.
Kids have been shoveling snow and opening up pop-up lemonade stands for decades, but over the past few years, some communities have been cracking down on these ventures under the guise of regulation. In 2011, Georgia police officers shut down a lemonade stand run by three little girls because they didn't have a business license or the proper permits required to sell food. Last year, two teens were threatened with fines from New Jersey officials because they hadn't obtained a "solicitation permit" before they went door-to-door offering to shovel snow after a storm.
Two young girls in Texas were put out of business when they attempted to open a lemonade stand to raise money to buy their dad tickets to a nearby amusement park for Father's Day. The girls were first told that they didn't need a permit, but after they obtained one, they were told that they would also need a food-handling permit from the health department. Fortunately, they solved the issue by setting up another stand and offering lemonade for free while accepting any tips that were offered. (They received hundreds of dollars in donations as well as free tickets to the amusement park from the park owners.)
These kid vs. cop clashes have become so frequent in recent years that attorney David Roland, co-founder of the Freedom Center of Missouri, began plotting them in Google Maps.
Roland recently represented two Girl Scouts in Missouri who were barred from selling Girl Scout cookies out of their driveway. According to Roland, media attention usually helps government officials and law enforcement agencies see the light and let these kids get back to business. But one issue still remains: laws requiring permits and licenses aimed at adults are increasingly being used to shut kids down. More often than not, law enforcement gets involved in response to a complaint from a neighbor and the case escalates from there.
So what can parents do to help their kids stay on the right side of the law with business ventures? The best bet is to call your local city or town office and ask if there are any regulations in place that would prevent kids from running a lemonade stand or babysitting for their neighbors. That should give you an idea about whether or not your local government is willing to work with kids to protect these "occasional" businesses.
You may even want to spearhead an initiative similar to the recent law enacted in Utah, that would officially make it legal for kids to take on the occasional side job to earn some extra cash or raise money for a charity. Now that's turning lemons into lemonade.