A Brief History of Authorities Cracking Down on Lemonade Stands

lemonadeEvery summer, small children all across this great land are stricken with the entrepreneurial spirit and decide to start a lemonade stand. These little capitalists, with dreams in their heads and innocent beliefs, are just trying to make a little cash and maybe learn a lesson or two about money management and business. Instead they usually learn the definition of the word “Kafkaesque.”

Take, for example, Julie Murphy of Oregon City. She had her lemonade stand shut down by the Multnomah County Health Department for not having the proper permits to sell drinks to the public. Far be it from us to insist on special treatment, but personally, we just wonder how Jon Kawaguchi, the health inspector who did this, explained the concept of health permits to a second-grader. Also how he stopped her from crying after trying to hit her up for $120.

Needless to say, once word got out about this, Kawaguchi got his ass chewed out and county politicians actually came and personally apologized.

Weirdly, this wasn’t the first time this happened: a year before Kawaguchi decided to exert his enormous bureaucratic power over a seven-year-old, Philadelphia cops shut down a lemonade stand being run by pre-K kids. The best part? The poor kids were reported to the authorities by neighbors. Who is bothered enough by a lemonade stand to call police?  We’re guessing said neighbor was extremely old, crotchety, and had nothing better to do, but it tells you something that the cops themselves actually researched the law, found it was OK under Pennsylvania law for little kids to sell lemonade, and even gave them lemonade. In this particular case, it might just be sticking it to the caller, who we’re guessing calls to complain all the time about people on that concrete thing the city insisted on installing on his lawn.


We don’t mean to be excessively cruel to the police, because they’re not all douchebags about it: for example, when this San Francisco cop threw out a bunch of illegal ice cream vendors, he had to shut down a lemonade stand too, but he felt really bad about it. The cop himself said it best: he has to apply the law to everybody, even people in grade school. It helps he’s in San Francisco, where generally criminals are sentenced to hugs.

And now it’s happening again, this time in Georgia. And this time from the chief of police, no less. He literally just happened to drive by, see a lemonade stand, and decided to shut it down, presumably because he hadn’t fulfilled his quota of making the South seem as stereotypical as possible. Oh, and it also happened in Wisconsin.

We’d like to say that to a degree, these guys aren’t just being utter dicks and do actually have a point. We have health permits for a reason, as anybody who’s eaten at an unlicensed taco truck could tell you if they hadn’t died screaming on a toilet. Children can have a very strange idea of what constitutes water and lemonade mix although apparently, lemonade stands have yet to be a source of viral outbreaks. Still it is their job, and their job sucks.

But what baffles us is not just that this even happens in the first place, but that nobody learns from it. This is generally what happens:

  1. A cop shuts down the lemonade stand for some reason or another, usually something to do with permits. He ranges from apologetic and slightly embarrassed about it to coming off like the bad guy in a live-action Disney film. Presumably in the latter case, he holds a press conference to thoroughly shame the children and then spots a cuddly stray dog named Scraps who leads him on a wacky chase through lots of obstacles that ends with him getting hit in the crotch, possibly repeatedly.
  2. A local news reporter picks up on it, usually because the parents call to complain about some local official shutting down their kids’ lemonade stand, and who does that? A story runs in the local paper and, almost inevitably, goes viral on the Internet. Most of the time, it goes viral on the kind of website that specializes in insisting that Obama is secretly preparing an invasion of well-spoken, intelligent Black people to take our jobs, and then the bigger news outlets pick up on it. What that says about larger news outlets is something we’ll leave to the reader.
  3. The police officer in question is subject to the kind of public shaming we usually reserve for the people who usually are subject to mockery, derision and deserved hatred, namely juggalos. The police department apologizes, or is forced to apologize once some high muckety-muck steps in and makes them. Then Scraps is adopted by the loving family and they all live happily ever after, until somebody produces a gritty remake and Scraps goes on a Milk-Bone fueled roaring rampage of revenge.

You’d think once would be enough. Contrary to popular belief, police officers do actually care, a lot, about their image, and being seen as humorless dicks who bully children just makes their usual job of busting people who do actual crime that actually hurts people that much harder. So a lot of departments take notes and try to live and let live, especially since most people feel bad hassling an eight year old.

But then it happens somewhere else. The Georgia story we mentioned not only got national coverage, but people are still bitching about it in the local papers a month after it happened, and the chief of police is likely to lose his job. And then some guy in Wisconsin, hundreds of miles and nearly polar opposite in stereotypes, does the exact same thing, to the exact same results, a month later.

We’re not saying police shouldn’t enforce health permits. There have been too many moments that we’ve drunkenly burst into a bathroom, only to find each stall filled with the victims of unlicensed taco trucks, meaning we have to pee in that little drain in the center of the room they always seem to have. We’re just saying that maybe instead of hassling them, buy a cup, drink it, and only act if it tastes funny. That way, you also get some worker’s comp.