Economy & Business

Let Kids Sell Lemonade; We Won’t Die

(Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
An important bill passed the New York Senate Health Committee on Tuesday.

It’s that time of year again: The weather is getting warmer, and savvy kids will be trying to make a couple of extra bucks selling lemonade — unless, of course, the government catches them.

As a piece in Reason reminds us, a seven-year-old New York boy named Brendan Mulvaney made headlines last summer after the government shut down the little lemonade stand he had set up on his family’s porch. Why? Because his attempt to have a normal, harmless childhood experience ran afoul of a New York health regulation that requires a $30 permit for temporary food vendors from health officials.

At the time, Republican state senator Jim Tedisco introduced a bill that would protect kids like Mulvaney from having to go to the health department in order to run a business with a profit that typically amounts to the price of a vending-machine snack.

“A lemonade stand operated by a person under the age of 16 years shall not be considered to be a temporary food establishment,” states the most recent version of the legislation, filed in January.

“There’s nothing that says America more than apple pie and kids running lemonade stands. ‘Brendan’s Lemon-Aid Law for Children’ will keep child-run lemonade stands open for business in New York State without this regulation hanging over them,” Tedisco said in a statement.

In a win for sanity, the bill passed the New York Senate Health Committee on Tuesday. Now it moves on to the state’s Finance Committee — and hopefully will eventually become law.

Let me be clear: Shutting down a child’s lemonade stand for the sake of public safety is a stupid, disgusting waste of taxpayer-funded resources. I mean, if they were presenting some kind of danger, then I’d understand. If these kids were out there spiking lemonade with arsenic and people were dropping like flies in the summer heat, I’d understand. But I did a little research, and found out that our suburban porches have actually not become modern-day Jonestown repeats. In fact, I have found exactly zero casualties of children’s lemonade stands. That’s right — not a single one! So why do we need laws that “protect” us from things that don’t cause any danger in the first place?

Answer: We don’t. No one is scared of lemonade stands, and if I’m wrong about this, please let me know so that I can start my own lemonade stand to raise money for those people’s desperately needed mental-health care. In fact, as Reason points out, fear of someone getting hurt likely had nothing at all to do with Mulvaney’s being shut down last year. Rather, it more than likely was because the young entrepreneur had decided to open up his 75-cents-a-cup business a little too close to a state fair where lemonade was going for $7 a pop.

In a time when we are trying to keep kids out of trouble and off of the Juul, we should be encouraging them to do productive, safe things with their summers. I sold lemonade on my family’s driveway as a child, and I can confidently say that I have absolutely zero regrets about it — except for maybe wasting that hard-earned money on a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen VHS tape. (You’re welcome, rich twins.) Actually, I can say that it was probably one of the more useful activities that I engaged in during my summers — and that’s not just because getting creamed by my little brother in baseball until I cried, begging my mom for an iguana, and spending hours on end trying to learn how to do a cartwheel (I still can’t do one; sometimes practice makes nothing) were its competitors. It’s because I actually learned things. I experienced what it was like to work toward a goal, to make money and to interact with people professionally. I got to see how taking matters into your own hands can pay off, and, yes, I finally did get that VHS tape.

These days, I don’t think that kids have enough of that kind of thing — and no, I don’t just mean VHS tapes or Olsen twins. I mean actual, real-life experiences with real-life people that don’t just teach, but demonstrate real-life lessons. I don’t want to sound like a crotchety old woman (at least not for another 35 years, and then I will proudly) but kids seem like they’re always attached to screens. They’re playing mindless games on their phones. They’re posting pictures of themselves on Instagram to try and get “likes,” and feeling bad about themselves if they don’t. They are stealing our phone chargers.

How about, instead of shutting down lemonade stands, the government finds something else to do with its (read: our) resources.  After all, even though lemonade stands don’t kill people, other things do. Like car accidents. And cancer. And murder. And sometimes, falling furniture. Actually, now that I think about it, kids’ lemonade stands might be the only thing left in the world that, so far as we know, has never been responsible for a death. So, this summer, let’s get some perspective and push our government to focus on real problems instead of creating bogus ones.