Lemonade stands latest threat to London

They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. What they don’t tell you is that you better be prepared to drink it all yourself, because if you try to sell it, that’s when bad things happen.

While flipping through my Facebook feed, one of my friends shared a post linking to an opinion piece from The Telegraph in London. The author, Andre Spicer, wrote about how his daughter wanted to make lemonade and sell it at a stand, just like kids in yesteryear did. He helped her get set up, but here’s what happened next:

“The lemonade quickly disappeared and her little money tin filled up. A happy scene. And then, after about 30 minutes, four local council enforcement officers stormed up to her little table.

“‘Excuse me,’ one officer said as he switched on a portable camera attached to his vest. He then read a lengthy legal statement–the gist of which was that because my daughter didn’t have a trading permit, she would be fined £150. ‘But don’t worry, it is only £90 if it’s paid quickly,’ the officer added.

“My daughter burst into tears, repeating again and again ‘Have I done a bad thing?’

“After five minutes, the officers’ jobs were done and they went on their way. We packed up and made the short walk home. My daughter sobbed all the way.”

It surprised me a little bit that it took four policemen to issue a 5-year-old girl a citation. It conjures up one of those light bulb jokes—how many policemen does it take to subdue a kindergartner? I could see this being a scene in a really horrible spoof of Star Wars, where stormtroopers are telling a padowan selling lemonade to move along, but then Darth Vader shows up and declares her part of the rebel alliance and a traitor. Four officers taking on one girl? Really?

Besides the fact that it took multiple officers to bring down a lemonade bandit, I was baffled by the thought that a child would need a permit to sell lemonade. You might recall a piece I wrote a while back about Wisconsin having a law that banned selling baked goods unless they were made in a commercial kitchen. This falls in the same category, where the state is basically telling people that they’re not able to think for themselves and need government to tell them what’s safe and what’s not.

It’s compounded by the fact that a young entrepreneur was spanked by the system. Instead of being a mindless tech-addicted zombie playing video games or playing on an iPad, the girl wanted to make a little spending money, and she was willing to provide a service for that money. I guess the London government would prefer she make her money the way it does, sending a quartet of policemen to shake down little girls.

Her dad, the aforementioned Andre Spicer, also had this insight about how society has changed:

“Holding the notice of the fine in my hand, I’m reminded just how restrictive we have become with our children. When I was growing up, my brother and I were able to wander miles from home without adult supervision. We were encouraged to sell things to raise money for clubs we were part of. By selling biscuits, we learned about maths, communication and basic business skills. But more importantly, we gained a degree of confidence. I can’t ever recall a council officer popping up and fining us.”

That might be because in the good old days, being innovative was seen as a good thing. Earning your own money at such a young age was a sign that you would be able to contribute to society, not leach off of it. When you see kids today, how many of them are setting up lemonade stands, delivering newspapers or even taking part in school fundraisers? Entrepreneurship should be encouraged, not discouraged—and definitely not fined. Telling a little girl she can’t sell lemonade is bad enough, but issuing her a citation is like giving someone the death penalty for littering.

The good news out of all this is that Spicer and her daughter won’t have to pay the fine, after all. According to the Washington Post, the city council apologized to the family and issued a statement that it expects officers to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly.”

While it’s true that the officers were overzealous and heavy handed, they were enforcing the rule of law. If the council really wants common sense to prevail, repeal the law and come up with a business licensing system that would prevent even the dimmest of law enforcement officers from interpreting it as preventing little girls from selling lemonade.

Of course, we can’t really blame this on the British. Sadly enough, we’ve got some examples of kids in America trying to sell lemonade and getting slapped down by laws. Some recent examples:

  • In 2016, a 10-year-old girl named Annabelle Lockwood found herself in the crosshairs of the Orange County, Calif., health department when she sold a boatload of lemonade and was told she needed to get a permit, according to the Free Thought Project. The total cost: $3,500. The family set up a GoFundMe page and was able to raise the money.
  • A CNN story from 2015 reported about how two Texas sisters, 7 and 8, tried to sell lemonade to raise money for a Father’s Day gift. Texas police shut them down because, once again, they didn’t have a permit.
  • The same CNN story pointed to a situation in 2011 in Maryland, where a group of kids selling lemonade wound up having to pay $500 because they didn’t have a permit.

So, you see we can’t just blame this on a bizarre foreign culture. Apparently, the Yankees can be just as moronic as all the Queen’s men.

Andre Spicer pointed out that society is “supervising joy out of childhood.” That’s true, but it’s also bogging people down with pointless rules and regulations. It’s discouraging freethinkers, and it’s forcing a lot of lemonade to go to waste.

 

 

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