Florida police could shut down your child’s lemonade stand
As states around the country pass laws to protect kids’ lemonade stands against overreaching local regulations, Florida’s legal landscape remains murky.
The lemonade stand is a quintessential American example of childhood initiative and free enterprise.
But local regulations in Florida can turn young entrepreneurs into unwitting criminals.
While more than a dozen states have sought to clarify this uncertainty by passing laws explicitly exempting kids’ lemonade stands from any licensing requirements, Florida has continued to leave lemonade stands in a legal gray area, subject to a nebulous patchwork of state, county, and municipal regulations.
Lemonade laws in Florida
The city of Miami makes it illegal to sell beverages “on any street, alley, sidewalk, or public park within the city” unless one acquires a business tax receipt. Vending is also prohibited within five feet of the entranceway to any building and within 20 feet of any driveway. Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines of up to $500 per day, as well as prison sentences of up to 60 days, for each day the violation continues.
Consider a child in Miami who starts a lemonade stand in her front yard, 19 feet away from her driveway. Under the law, she could be subject to crackdowns from law enforcement.
In Orlando, the municipal code states it is illegal to sell any “thing of value” unless the seller registers beforehand with the Orlando Police Department. There is an exception for sales conducted by a school, college, or university. But this exception wouldn’t protect ordinary lemonade stands.
Aside from local prohibitions, Florida state law penalizes any person who engages in any occupation or business without first obtaining a local business tax receipt. Exemptions are limited to “any charitable, religious, fraternal, youth, civic, service, or other similar organization” engaging in occasional fundraising activities.
Local regulators and young entrepreneurs
Notably, in 2018, police in Lake Mary stopped three high school football players who were selling calendars to raise money for their team. While the police determined eventually that the state exemption covered the football players, the very fact that the police were confused about the statute is telling.
While there are no recorded instances in which Florida police have shut down a child’s lemonade stand, such incidents have occurred in other states over the past decade. In 2015 in Texas, police shut down a lemonade stand run by two sisters because they had not procured the necessary $150 permit or health inspection. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2019 signed legislation to protect kids’ lemonade stands.
In 2011, six children in Montgomery County, Maryland, were issued a $500 ticket for operating a lemonade stand outside a country club where the U.S. Open golf tournament was being held. And in 2018, Denver police shut down a group of brothers’ lemonade stand because they lacked a $125 permit (the lemonade stand had raised $200 for charity before it was forced to close). In Illinois, an 11-year-old who sold lemonade to raise money for college was threatened with fines if she did not cease operations.
New law offers protection for culinary entrepreneurs
However, the new law clarifies that cottage food operations still “must comply with the conditions for the operation of a home-based business,” which in turn include a requirement that “[a]s viewed from the street, the use of the residential property is consistent with the uses of the residential areas that surround the property.” This appears to rule out a lemonade stand that is conspicuous to people passing on the street – and indeed, a previous draft of the legislation said that “[a]ny business transactions conducted at the business must not take place in view of the street.” But a lemonade stand could not sell much lemonade if it were not visible from the street.
One thing is for certain: The legal landscape for lemonade stands in Florida is complex, filled with overlapping and interlocking rules at the state, county, and municipal levels.
Until there is clarity, children must simply hope that when someone calls the police to shut down their lemonade stand, the responding officer will react like Niceville police officer Thomas Bronson did this summer – he gave the children $100 toward their charitable cause.
The Florida legislature and Gov. DeSantis should explicitly protect child-run lemonade stands from state and local regulations, so that all children can exercise their entrepreneurial spirit and engage in a cherished American pastime without the heavy hand of government getting in the way.
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