Outrage of the Week: Kid’s Lemonade Stand Closed for Lack of Permit

Oh Readers — What are we going to do with this country? In Portland, Ore, health inspectors shut down a 7-year-old’s lemonade stand at some kind of fair because, “Our role is to protect the public.”

From what? Summer? Fun? Kids? The right to DO something, instead of just sitting at home, quietly watching reruns?

If any health inspectors are reading this, I say: Come arrest my son, too. He was selling lemonade at a summer community last weekend — or trying to. Then younger, cuter kids saw him and go the bright idea of opening a stand right next to his! They got all the business.

What better lesson in commerce — in LIFE! — is there than that? And yet, the authorities stand ready to take it away.

What do you want to bet they chug the evidence? — Lenore

41 Responses

  1. Well, of course, this IS a public safety issue. Lemonade involves lemons, and as a famous Communist said “You can’t make lemonade without slicing lemons.” And it is the conventional wisdom that 7-year olds are far too immature and uncoordinated to be trusted with a paring knife. (Going back a few hundred posts to the Cub Scout whittling merit badge, trying to slice lemons with a potato peeler is even worse than trying to whittle with one.) So, if seven year olds are allowed to make and sell lemonade, they will almost certainly slice their fingers off.

    Of course, selling reconstituted powdered lemonade is an option, and to that I echo a youngster I overheard a couple of years ago at an end-of-summer school cleanup I was helping with. He poured a cup of Country Time from the cooler on the snack table, tasted it, and said “Yuck! Block party lemonade!”

  2. This was not a normal occurance. They *had* to close the “stand” because it was set up at a regularly occurring and quite large street fair.

    If they had let the kids continue they would have then had to let any businesses or vendors also continue – without permits. And if you have ever been to Last Thursdays on Alberta you would know that almost anyone and everyone sets up something on those 30 blocks – and people would sell all kinds of dangerous food stuffs.

    They do not target or shut down kids who set up on regular streets.

    They can only ignore the rules so often, every and then they will have to enforce the rules for everyone…

  3. I bet your son learned some good lessons about competition and marketing when those little kids move in on his turf.

  4. I can understand the food safety issue. Uncooked meat being cooked, baked goods, perishable items, etc… But we are talking about powdered kool-aid and water. How is it’s safety any different with a $150 permit? It’s the same packets and water being used. Let’s be honest here, it’s about “the man” sticking it to the little guy because they can. That and to make money. This would never happen when I was growing up.

    I understand what John Reinhold said; if the inspectors made an exception with one they’ll have to make it with everyone. And it is the law of the state. BUT, every rule can be bent. It has in the past, and will continue to be. With no one complaining in the event, and actually encouraging this little girl, who did it in the first place because she was inspired, for one day these inspectors couldn’t make an exception. Greedy bastards.

    Now a child’s inspiration has become a huge let down. Way to go guys, oppress a kid and show her how the world is cruel, with no understanding and compassion. Teach her that authorities are selfish and uncaring.

  5. The shut-down stand in Oregon was selling lemonade from Koolaid mix and bottled water mixed on the spot, forcryingoutloud. In the article the mother is quoted as saying her daughter used hand sanitizer, kept everything covered up and cool, and so on. In other words, pretty darn good hygiene (I’ve worked in restaurants and some of the hygiene in those establishments, not to mention the carelessly used chemicals, would make your hair curl).

    Actually, I’d be more likely to buy real lemonade from a kid making it from freshly squeezed lemons; I can’t stand nasty Koolaid and mixes.

    At my house, we use the ripe limes & lemons that drop off our prolific citrus trees, below which *our cat likes to take naps*. Sure, we give the citrus a quick scrub and a rinse with water, but otherwise we don’t *disinfect* the citrus fruits. My kid and the other kids that frequent our garden often eat the oranges they pick up right off the ground below. I think we are losing our minds when it comes to food safety. I worry a lot more about contaminates in factory-manufactured foods than from real, minimally-processed or unprocessed foods, and the food-borne illness data backs that up.

    I’ll spare you my theories on germophobia and how it increases illness instead of decreasing 😉.

  6. The other day I was walking down the street in DC and couldn’t figure out why everyone I passed going in the opposite direction had solo cups…. Turns out there was a lemonade stand set up a block down- 25 cents for a half glass. It was a steal on an extremely hot day, and I’m pretty sure those kids made a killing!

  7. Shame on city officials for attacking time honored traditions such as lemonade stands, tree houses, cruising the strip, etc. They’ve ruined childhood and youth in this nation!

  8. John, I totally agree with you. This was not a fair posting, Lenore. We have much more to be outraged about–like seeing more adults on a jungle gym than children at our local playground. There’s a lot to be happy about, too–like seeing kids run up and down my Brooklyn street without adults swooping in over them because they’re less than 10 feet from traffic.

  9. My 8 and 6 year olds have kool-aid stands quite often. I’m always surprised how they can turn a 20 cent packet into 15 bucks. They are learning several things in the process. I make them pay for the cups, and packets, I supply the sugar which we always have anyway. They make signs and lug the table and chairs up from the basement. They set up on the street corner and then have to interact with their customers and make change. I stay in the house and occasionally look out the window. Long live kiddos neighborhood kool-aid stands🙂

  10. @ Anna, I totally agree with you! Everyone I know who uses hand sanitizer and wipes down shopping carts always has sick kids. I despise these things, I know my kids and I are healthier because our bodies get lots of exposure to germs and knows how to fight them🙂

  11. I’m sorry but ,specifics, aside, I’m still siding with Lenore on this one. It’s just a lemonade stand. Sure sounds like the no-fun police are all over this one hard.

  12. @ David: Lenore’s post is all about Free-Range up bringing. Lemonade stands, as Silver Fang puts it, is a time honored tradition. Back in the day, it encouraged us to learn the value of responsibility, and earning our keep, not to mention the satisfaction that we accomplished something primarily on our own. It gave us a sense of pride and self-esteem. Look beyond the “adult covered glasses”, and view it from the child’s perspective. Guess a lot of adults have forgotten what it was like to be kid, or perhaps never really got a chance to have childhood because their parents were fearful?

    The article actually reminds me of those Ally commercials.



    Just look at the disappointment on their faces.

  13. John is right about Last Thursday. It’s a crazy madhouse scene with lots of people selling all sorts of things (who knows what’s in that vegan chocolate smoothie or hemp nut cookie!)

    If she had stayed in her own neighborhood which is 10 miles away she wouldn’t have had her stand shut down. Of course, the potential to make $100 isn’t there either.

    If she wants to make money at Last Thursday she could sell art! (’cause it’s an art walk!) My daughter sells her drawings and dolls during Last Thursday and does pretty well although not as much as she would make selling lemonade.

  14. Did no one read what I said?

    It had nothing to do with kids or hand sanitizer or lemonade.

    “Last Thursday” on Alberta in North Portland is a huge event held once a month. It spans 30 blocks and they close down the street to cars.

    The law says that in order to sell food or beverage you have to br inspected and have a permit.

    In such a highly visible, highly attended, and frequent event – the county simply can’t just let it slide for anyone. They run the risk of huge lawsuits – if they let one person do it but not another.

    Multnomah county and the City of Portland do not target or shut down children’s lemonade stands that are in neighborhoods on normal streets at normal times.

    This particular shut down was only because it was during an organized (or disorganized actually) event.

    Perhaps the law could be rewritten to exclude kids’ lemonade stands somehow. Or maybe the county could develop a special “free” conditional use permit. Although both would be ripe for abuse and would cost lots of tax dollars to administer.

    But again, Portland – especially the area in question – is one of the most “free range” parent friendly area I have ever seen. This occurrence is not the travesty it is being made out to be – by people who don’t even live here.

    We as a community have been supporting free range youth activity for longer than it has even had a name…

    Look at this the other way. If you came to the event and set up a burrito stand with no permit and they closed you down but the kids with no permit got to stay – would it bother you? Do you think that someone who had that happen could sue?

  15. I have mixed feelings on this one. I do see the argument that these are just kids and it’s just a lemonade stand. However, I also see John’s point above: this wasn’t in their backyard or the corner; it was at a public fair, and if you let business in without a permit, then it’s only fair you allow all.

    Again, yes, they’re just kids, and again, yes, it’s just a lemonade stand. But I can picture some other vendor arguing, “Well, if you let THEM do it, then you have to let me.”

    It reminds me of a company I used to work for years ago. People would sell stuff at work all the time: their kids’ Girl Scout cookies, Mary Kay, etc. Then one of my co-workers became a rep for a sex toy company. (You can probably see where this is going.) A few people complained, and sex toy rep used the argument “Why does everybody else get to sell crap at work but me?” After that, a strict ban was issued on anyone hawking anything at work, even GS cookies. We couldn’t even solicit for charities we were participating in.

    Frankly, I didn’t disagree with the ban. And yes, I agree sex toys are a far cry from lemonade stands. However, it isn’t fair to have a set of rules for one group and another set for everyone else.

  16. @becky: did you or your daughter get a license to sell her drawings and dolls?

  17. @John — I understand your point, and agree it’s a valid one. But… would it have really done so much damage if the cop had quietly explained the rules to the mother and asked that they not do it again? It’s not like the attendees or other vendors have any idea that she didn’t have a license…. Just a thought.

    Obviously, I’m not familiar with the event, and from the sound of it perhaps there is a legitimate problem w/ unlicensed vendors, but the cop really did ruin this girl’s experience.

  18. I had just copied the link to this story, knowing that it would be your kind of material. Too funny that when I got here, it was the top post!

  19. John, I don’t think anyone here contests the legality of what you are saying. But whether we live there or not, vendor license is required EVERYWHERE they have community event. Food is one thing, but beverages made from an unopened pack and bottled water, distributed in a sanitary condition is far less of a health issue. What it boils down to, is the city getting it’s cut from vendors. But let’s take your legal argument to the issue. Yes, if they make an exception for one, they are more inclined to do it for everyone. But do you really think they hit EVERYONE with that license clause? I seriously doubt that. Like all inspectors I’ve dealt with, they pick and chose who they hit. I’ve gone to plenty of community events, and some didn’t have a vendors license. Namely people who are selling small arts and crafts. But hey, law is the law. Whether your selling food or beverage, or arts and crafts.

    As mvb mentioned, they could have been more discreet. And the fact that the neighboring vendors didn’t feel offended by this little girl, I can’t see why these inspectors could just let it go for that day. They DO have the power of discretion to do that. It’s really a matter of whether they want to or not. They could have even made a compromise, say by putting a time limit on her lemonade stand being up. Give her the opportunity to enjoy that moment, even if it’s for limited time. No harm, no foul. Everyone deserves a break here and there. Guess that’s the problem with the world today, to much greed, not enough compassion. Like I said, laws are bent everyday by the people who enforce them, this incident is no different.

  20. @ DMT: I don’t think your co-worker with the sex toys was completely to blame. As you indicated, only a FEW people were complaining. A classic case of a few ruining it for all. If he kept it on the down low, and people didn’t make a big deal out of it, everyone would still be selling their wares. IMO, as long as the sale isn’t done openly or showcased, one must be completely anal to be offended by sex toys.

  21. Lenore, usually I’m right there with you being OUTRAGED.

    But not this time. She set up at an EVENT. As a VENDOR.

    You need a permit for that. It’s pretty simple.

  22. FFS. A lemonade stand!!

    I disagree with Kate, a child is not a merchant. They’re kids, children, a 7 y o. The authority said that (their) role is to protect the public.
    From what? Cholera?
    In my neighbourhood kids, upwards to 17, hold cake sales to raise money for their local soccer team, a school trip, They do it outside the supermarket and no one minds. If you have an issue with food- or water safety with kids fixing lemonade or muffins, then rely on the market forces and don’t buy. But for a kid to need a permit is just god awful strange.

  23. @ Eric, I’m not saying she was blameless (and yes, it was a SHE not a HE). Personally, I think the company should’ve put the smack down years before because I don’t think hawking your hobbies or side business should be allowed in a work environment.

    And she was very discreet. The people who complained were ones not in on the conversation (they just overheard and got offended). But actually, what I’m saying is that sex toy rep was in the right: why should everyone else get to sell crap but not her simply because she was WAS selling sex toys?

    My point is, what is fair for some should be fair for all, which is why I see John’s point on this. If this had been a little sidewalk stand in front of the house, I’d be more inclined to say, “yes, how ridiculous.” However, this was at a public event. If a permit is required for everyone selling goods, then that’s the law.

    And instead of getting indignant, why not use the opportunity to teach kids about laws and permits? I see this as a great learning opportunity for the kids, not an outrage.

  24. Multnomah County chief apologizes for health inspectors who shut down 7-year-old’s lemonade stand at local art show

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/08/multnomah_county_chief_apologi.html

  25. @ DMT: I totally understand, I wasn’t trying to harp on you. What I was saying was in support of “if it goes for one, it goes for all”. I’m most certain, just through my experience with vendors, that not all vendors in that event had their licenses, and they probably weren’t even approached.

    @ Greg: Thank you for that follow up article. Even the county chief sees the point most of us have been trying to make here.

    Just because it’s state law, with the exception of actual real crimes (ie. robbery, murder, assault, fraud, etc…), there is always room for some leeway. Perfect example, traffic tickets, those of us who’ve been caught speeding, running a stop sign or stop light, illegal parking have always looked for a break from the officer. And I’m sure with the right coaxing, batting of the eye, friendly talk we’ve been let off. Again, authorities have the discretion in some things pan out.

    By the sounds of both articles, those inspectors seems to be just the hard ass type. Probably insecure, and bullied as kids, the power tripping type, non-free range upbringing. 😉

  26. You can certainly argue that a permit is a permit is a permit. And law is law and am I required to have a permit then so should all etc. All valid. And had she been in her frontyard to sell whatever, then the inspectors wouldn’t have crept up.
    It doesn’t say how many else at the fair that was inspected.
    It’s important to keep with laws etc., but where is the sanity in prohibiting everything in the name of safety. Nor does a permit per se warrant food safety.
    There’s an epidemic running amock that involved that any and all are “inappropriate”, “unsafe” and “offended”.

  27. I agree that the “goes for one, goes for all” principle would probably justify shutting them down, but the problem is, the inspectors cited “public health” as the rationale.

    Had they described their actions as fairness, or the rule of law, or their liability to state authorities, or something like that, it would be more understandable. Claiming that they’re protecting people from drink mix powder and commercially bottled water is ridiculous.

  28. @Pentamom, it would have been nice of them to define what the threat to public safety was. Cholera, ebola, other water borne illness? *ironic and sarcastic*

  29. I get that this is an actual event but health inspectors and people have a lot of leeway. They could have let her finish the day and told them not to come back the next week.

  30. Eric, I’m not so sure. When we have any kind of outdoor festival around here (not Multnomah County), the health inspectors show up and inspect all the vendors. Maybe other places are different, but it’s not wholly improbable that the authorities in Multnomah County really do check permitting on all food vendors at established public events.

    That said, the authorities were definitely heavy-handed. But on a completely different note, I question the wisdom of the parents encouraging the child to do this at a public event. It’s not a “terrible” thing to do, but it really wasn’t the appropriate venue for a kid’s lemonade stand, and they could just have said, “No, that’s not the place to do something like this.” Just because a kid’s idea is cute and clever does not automatically mean it should be encouraged — the cleverness could have been redirected.

  31. That’s true pentamom, for all we know they did inspect all the vendors, but based on the article and the inspectors excuse, it just seems more of a “because I said so” attitude. Pushing their weight around because they can. Which also leads me to believe health inspectors in any city are all pretty much the same. There are either lenient ones, or there are heavy handed ones. These ones seemed more of the latter.

    As for the mother, maybe she just had no clue that a lemonade stand required a permit. I wouldn’t have thought so either. Never did when I was a kid, and we sold lemonade in front of our house, at our school fund raisers, we even did a stint once in a park. That one didn’t last too long though, it was a hot day and we kept drinking our own lemonade. lol

    Do we know if the event planners informed everyone about vendor licenses? Was it posted for people to see? Not saying ignorance is an excuse. But if the mother didn’t know, she wouldn’t have been able to let her child know.

  32. I’m a HUGE fan Lenore, but I agree with the law on this one. Just because she’s a kid doesn’t exempt her from the laws regarding SELLING FOOD at a huge local event. No one would be jumping to her defense if she were 30 and decided to open up a non-permitted lemonade/hemp-cookie/falafel stand.

    I would wholeheartedly defend her right to sell lemonade on the corner, but when her mom and she made the strategic business decision to locate at a established local art fair, where other vendors have permits, they stepped out of “corner lemonade stand” world and into “portland’s valuable street festival” world. What if someone has gotten sick off her lemonade and sued to shut the whole street fair down? It’s important to protect the other vendors, who make a living from these festivals, from our litigious society.

    However, I disagree with how it was handled. There is no reason they had to make her cry. Get real. Quietly tell her that she can’t vend food without a permit and let her know that she can’t come back until she gets one.

  33. This event happens every month. It’s not just “some fair.” The kid lives an hour away from the event. This isn’t really much of an outrage, IMO. If the city or county started shutting down lemonade stands in neighborhoods, that would be another thing. We have five events here in Portland over the summer, where streets are shut down so only pedestrians and cyclists can use them. Lemonade stands are all over the place, and no one cares.

    This outrage might just be out of touch with what actually happened.

  34. @erin: My thoughts exactly. You said it much better than I could have.

  35. @erin

    I agree that the laws need to be enforced uniformly. The problem here then is with the law. There should be, at the least, exceptions for small scale vendors. Maybe they should have to post a note stating the obvious — that they are unregulated and unlicensed by our nanny state.

  36. “While the county inspectors were doing their job, Cogen said,

    the rules are meant for professional food service operators.”

    So who would know more? The inspectors or their boss?

    I understand the law is the law. But like I said, there is not one of us here that will try to weasel out of paying a fine if we ever got hit by one. At that moment, is anyone thinking “well, the law is the law, I’ll owe up to it and pay the fine”. I highly doubt it. Anyone of us here will try to get some slack, and officers depending on their mood and how you deal with him/her has the power to give it or not.

    So yes, the law is the law, but in situations like this, there is ALWAYS room for some slack. We aren’t talking about a McDonalds stand opening up, or a beer tent, or a hot dog stand. Who’s sole purpose for income is the sale of hot dogs, burgers or beer. We are talking about a little girl, who thought it would be nice to sell lemonade (because she saw some cartoon characters doing it on tv), for the sake of “selling” lemonade, not selling lemonade (for income).

  37. Eric, when I say that as a parent I wouldn’t have encouraged, that wasn’t based on concerns about the laws, and assuming the parent would have known the laws, so much as thinking that an organized public festival just isn’t an appropriate venue for a kids’ lemonade stand. Public festivals are usually filled with vendors who make at least a part of their living on selling their goods, and it’s not a place for kids to compete with them on cutesy points because they saw a cartoon about kids selling lemonade and wanted to do it, too. It’s a legitimate place of business (although a somewhat non-traditional one.)

    Kids’ lemonade stands in the neighborhood are great — we used to be fortunate enough to live right along the route thousands of people walked along on the way to a 4th of July celebration, and you can bet my kids set up in the front yard. And whenever there’s a yard sale in the neighborhood, they’re out there. But I don’t think kiddie lemonade stands belong in genuine commercial settings. That’s my opinion, for what it’s worth, but there it is.

  38. I have been shadowing health inspectors the past few weeks this summer to become one of these ‘heartless’ health inspectors.

    I am sure many of them pick and choose their targets. But I’m sure many more would LIKE to be able to let these things slide in the public eye. No food is ever safe. Either its real food, and is therefore from living things, and therefore carries a risk…..or it isn’t food at all….and has its dangers, though far less acute.

    It’s amazing just how little knowledge of food microbiology most food handlers have. And this is not about ‘germaphobia.’ This is about the difference between not overwashing your hands and not washing them after taking out the garbage. Food is a different animal. You WILL still come in contact with plenty of germs in sanitary conditions.

    Now, lemonade could be potentially hazardous. This fake stuff, much less so. Regardless…. even some ‘free-range’ parents and people will change their tune after suffering from food poisoning.

    Food-borne illness is not always a reflection of sanitation practices. It only takes one instance to mire the reputation of a well-intentioned, educated establishment.

    In some towns, maybe the permits about the money revenue, to cover expenses of regulation. Would a nominal 100 dollar permit keep you from operating a legit business? No. Would it keep you from selling food on a whim? Probably. And that is a good thing. It keeps people from distributing food without investing in food safety education.

    So maybe she was asked to leave and didn’t get to make her money at the fair. But had someone got sick….had someone complained….it’s that health inspectors job on the line. And when public health is not the issue…sorry….I’m siding with the protecting a persons annual income than a seven-year-old’s spending money.

  39. I agree with the Portlanders on this one (being a Portlander myself).

    The mom could have avoided the whole situation and instead present an excellent learning experience for her daughter had she actually looked into what was necessary to set up a food stand at an event. Instead she got a lesson in why she should be an exception to the rules that everyone else has to follow.

    The big problem with this particular event is that it is grass roots monthly festival that has outgrown itself. There is NO ORGANIZER. Therefore there is no list of “approved” vendors that the health inspectors can target.

    The mom just thought it would be a good idea and led her daughter into this avoidable situation. She brought her to an event in a different city than where she lived. This wasn’t in front of her house on a Saturday morning.

    Could this have been handled differently by the inspectors? Absolutely! Should the vendors around her refrained from escalating the situation? Absolutely. Did she deserve an apology? Yes, but from her mom, not the City.

  40. Maybe this young entreprenuer & her mom should start a Kids’ Market like this one:

    http://hilltownfamilies.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/hf-46/

    I’ve never been, but it sounds like a great summer project for kids, especially if they can’t have a stand otherwise.

  41. Don’t you wish these Air Jordan V samples released

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