This story starts in the powdered drink aisle of a local grocery store. There, shoppers are greeted with a small sign hanging by the lemonade.
"This product is illegal: running a lemonade stand in your state could lead to fines or fees."
"At first glance, it would appear that, technically, a lemonade stand would fall within the definition of a 'food service establishment,' which is required to have a state license under the Kansas Food Code. Those licenses are issued by the Kansas Department of Agriculture, which has authority over such matters," said Bob Myers, Newton city manager and lawyer.
According to Heather Lansdowne, director of communications for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, there could be some rules that apply through the KDA — but the department is not concerned with a child's lemonade stand.
"This is a lose-lose, if we say we are not going to look over things, it looks like we are not doing our jobs. If we say we are, we are mean adults," Lansdowne said. "Essentially, we are always watching for food service businesses that are operating on a long term basis. A lemonade stand does not fit that. A lemonade stand is a great opportunity for young Kansas kids to learn about business and food safety practices. ... We love the entrepreneurial spirit and we love lemonade stands."
The Kansas Department of Revenue gave a similar answer when asked about license and tax requirements.
"They should not have anything to worry about," said Zach Fletcher, public information officer for the Kansas Department of Revenue. "With Kansas tax law, there is an exemption for an isolated occurrence and it is not like this is a normal occurrence."
This may seem trivial — but it is not. This week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot signed a bill which allows minors to sell lemonade or other non-alcoholic beverages on private property, banning state and local authorities from enforcing laws that prohibit or regulate the sale of the drinks.
He tweeted, "We had to pass a law because police shut down a kid’s lemonade stand."
The bill was, apparently, a response to an 2015 incident in which Overton, Texas, police shut down a lemonade stand run by two young sisters. The girls were reportedly raising money for their Father’s Day gift when they were told it was illegal to sell lemonade without a permit.
"And just what was going through the Texas police chief’s mind which made him think that would be a good idea," Myers asked.
Similar situations have occurred in New York and Georgia.
Do not expect a similar situation in Newton, however — unless the shutdown of a lemonade stand comes from the state level.
"We do have some enforcement authority in relation to unlicensed food service establishments, but I feel safe in saying that a child’s lemonade stand is not on our enforcement radar screen. In fact, personally I have trouble driving by a kid’s lemonade stand without stopping to partake of their wares. So if that makes me complicit in local illegal activity, then so be it. That I can live with," Myers said.
And, he said, do not expect the city to go after young entrepreneurs who have not applied for a business license to do other, traditional, odd jobs for kids.
"There are no particular regulations about other types of typical, informal youth activities such as mowing the neighbor’s yard, dog-walking, scooping snow, etc., to earn some additional spending money," Myers said. "That seems almost like an inalienable right, doesn’t it?"