Closure leaving sour taste in family’s mouth

Setting up a lemonade stand in Denver without a proper permit makes entrepreneurial kids outlaws, according to city code.

One Stapleton family found this out the hard way.

Three brothers’ Memorial Day weekend lemonade stand was shut down by Denver police after several vendors at the nearby Denver Arts Festival complained that the kids were undercutting their prices.

The boys, ages 2 to 6, didn’t have a temporary vending permit — a violation of city policy, said their mother, Jennifer Knowles.

The permit, which allows people to sell food and non-alcoholic beverages at city-approved sites, has a $100 one-day-only fee and comes with a list of rules regulating things such as financial backing, health department regulations and hours of operation.

Compounding the vendors’ complaints, the stand — run by Ben, 6, William, 4, and Jonathan, 2 — was in violation of city rules prohibiting nonpermitted vendors with mobile vending units from being within 300 feet of a city park. The boys’ stand, across the street from their house, was on the sidewalk next to a neighborhood park.

“I was very surprised and shocked that all this was necessary for a child’s lemonade stand,” Knowles said. “When I think back to my childhood, I had lemonade stands all the time. It never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be OK for my kids to do the same.”

Knowles and her boys wanted to donate their lemonade revenue to Compassion International, a nonprofit, child-advocacy ministry that allows people to sponsor children in poverty.

“I wanted this to be a learning opportunity for my boys,” Knowles said.

Denver police and the city said they don’t go out of their way to regulate children hawking summer treats, but the city admitted that a lemonade stand without a food peddler’s license for the sale of prepackaged goods or a temporary restaurant permit for food or drinks made in-house is against the law.

“Fostering the entrepreneurial spirit is something that we can all get behind, especially when it’s for a good cause,” read a Denver Police Department Facebook post in response to the incident. “Unfortunately, this past weekend, officers received several complaints from permitted vendors about a stand which lacked a permit, but was set up at the same event.”

Police said their response was complaint-driven.

“When officers receive a complaint, we have an obligation to act,” the post read.

Brad Mueller, director of community development in Greeley, regularly deals with code-compliance issues.

“We are more than lemonade-stand friendly,” Mueller said. “We are common-sense friendly. Obviously, permits are meant for commercial enterprises. We have to, as a society, have a clear understanding between the intent of the law versus an innocent child’s endeavor. We are not going to be looking for Bobby and Susie on the corner selling lemonade.”

A champion for lemonade stands across the country is updating his list of injustices toward the sale of the sweet-and-sour beverage with last weekend’s Denver encounter.

Dave Roland — the director of the litigation for Freedom Center of Missouri, a self-described “lower-case-L libertarian” organization — created a map of instances where cities squashed a lemonade stand or other “kid-run concession stand.”

Since 2011, Roland has been updating the map — which includes three Colorado incidents and 30 others nationwide — with examples dating to 1983.

An incident in Hazelwood, Mo., planted the seed for Roland’s mission: A Girl Scouts group was told to stop selling cookies in a member’s driveway.

“I was irate,” Roland said. “I can’t think of much that is more harmless than children setting up something like a lemonade stand and learning about entrepreneurship. It’s a time-honored rite of passage for American kids. We try to use these instances as teaching opportunities to say maybe we should rethink whether the government really ought to have that much control over citizens.”

Knowles is trying to work with the city of Denver to ensure that lemonade stands get better protections.

Meantime, the Stapleton mom has been floored by the community support.

Knowles set up a GoFundMe so that her family could continue to donate to their chosen charity. As of Friday morning, the fund had more than $2,100 toward their $4,560 goal.

The Chick-fil-A store in their neighborhood invited the family to help sell lemonade inside the restaurant Friday morning, promising to donate 10 percent of the profit from the chain’s own lemonade sales for the day to Compassion International.

“When life gives you lemons,” Knowles said, “make lemonade.”

This article provided by NewsEdge.