It’s a childhood summer tradition: setting up a stand on the sidewalk with hand-lettered signs and selling homemade lemonade in paper or plastic cups to neighbors and passersby. Lemonade stands are a great way for kids to make a little money, learn about commerce, practice making change, and develop people skills. But your child’s summer fun might get them (and you) in trouble. (Check out this map, which shows U.S. towns that have restrictions on kids’ lemonade concessions).
In many towns, you need a permit to sell anything in public. Applying for a business or peddler’s permit seems like overkill for your kid to sell $5 worth of lemonade, but it is not unheard of for unfriendly neighbors or area businesses to report an “illegal business” and enforcement officers to respond.
Every state requires public health inspections and permits for anyone selling food, and a lemonade stand technically falls under that umbrella. You and your child could be subject to fines for selling food without a permit.
Zoning and traffic laws
Your budding entrepreneur could also run afoul of zoning laws that prohibit businesses from operating in residential neighborhoods. Another concern is traffic safety. If your kid’s lemonade stand causes cars to pull over or otherwise impedes traffic, it may be violating traffic laws as well.
When life hands you lemons…
So, what’s a parent to do? If you’re concerned, call your town hall and ask them if your child needs a permit. Most places will laugh or tell you not to worry about it, but protect yourself by getting that person’s name, just in case.
A great way to avoid business and food inspection permit problems is for your kids to give their lemonade away and ask for tips instead; this way they aren’t selling it. Make sure the stand is clean and the beverage is kept in a cooler so no one will have health concerns. And locate junior’s startup venture in a place where it won’t tie up traffic.