Big Changes Happening on August 7, 2019.


When life hands you lemons, hide them before the police see

The old adage says that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade.

What it doesn’t tell is that if your children try to sell that lemonade by setting up a stand, that action will bring lights and sirens to your neighborhood.

As if there are not enough government restrictions in our lives, the time-honored tradition of children trying to raise their own spending money has gone from being a lesson in responsibility to a stern warning that if you attempt to be an entrepreneur, you will be looked at like you’re a bootlegger or speakeasy during Prohibition. The police will fine the kids (and, by extension, the families) for selling something without a permit. Instead of being encouraged to learn commerce and enjoy the fresh air, they’ll be driven back into their homes to play video games all day, every day.

I wrote a piece in my online blog a couple of years ago about how the government has gone too far, but sadly, it’s not just the United States that has declared all-out war on lemonade. The incident that stuck out for me took place in London, where it apparently took four officers to issue a citation to a 5-year-old girl selling lemonade without a business permit, and she was fined £150 for doing what children have done for decades when it’s so hot, and they want to do something, but they don’t have enough money to even buy a candy bar.

Fortunately, the girl did not have to pay the fine, because the city council quickly realized that requiring small children to get a business permit like adults running grocery stores, law firms and restaurants was not only impractical, it’s just stupid. The half-empty portion of this tale is that most other communities — or even states — are under the impression that it’s better to discourage than encourage free enterprise.

Back across the pond here in the United States, it’s only legal for children to have lemonade stands in 15 states. Two of those are just recent converts, Texas and Tennessee, as their governors signed bills this month.

When I wrote my blog post, I had noted an incident in 2015 in Texas with two sisters, 7 and 8 at the time, who tried to sell lemonade to raise money for a Father’s Day gift. The police shut them down, but apparently that incident was the catalyst to get the state government to draft a bill making lemonade stands legal without the red tape of a permit. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill two weeks ago with a viral video showing him enjoying some lemonade after.

Tennessee finally got hip, as well, with its legalization due to take effect next week. There wasn’t as much posturing there, but the result is the same — common sense is finally coming back into government.

That might be a stretch to say.

In the time that I’ve lived in Wisconsin, the Shawano Leader has printed a couple of photos of area children setting up lemonade stands. When they were taken, they were likely intended to be cute, slice-of-life photos. But after a little research, I now see that they were evidence of crimes in progress, because Wisconsin is not one of the states that has become enlightened to the fact that lemonade is not the gateway to hard liquor and drugs.

Ironically enough, our neighbor to the south, Illinois, is one of the 15 states, and learning that just sent visions of Wisconsin residents crossing the border to visit lemonade stands in the same way that they did to buy margarine, because Wisconsin outlawed that back in 1895 as a way to protect its dairy farmers when margarine could be purchased for less than the cost of butter. That law was overturned in 1967, probably to the chagrin of the Illinois tourism industry.

Regulating lemonade stands, just like regulating food, is an exercise in futility for Wisconsin, in my view. Take the state’s attempt to restrict the sale of home baked goods. In 2017, that law was overturned for being unconstitutional after three Wisconsin bakers were not willing to put out thousands of dollars to prepare their tasty treats in a commercial kitchen and obtain a separate commercial license.

These laws don’t hold up for one very simple reason. We don’t like being told “no.”

Even though less than one-third of the states have made lemonade stands legal, there could be more coming down the pike. Lemonade maker Country Time has started its Legal-Ade program to help those sugary sweet young troublemakers who get busted by the police, offering to pay fines of up to $300 that children might incur from cities, towns and villages.

While there are certainly more important things on the Wisconsin Legislature’s plate, perhaps one or more of the lawmakers might do something to address children and their lemonade stands. First of all, being anti-lemonade is ridiculous, and second, Illinois doesn’t need any more of the Dairy State’s hard-earned dollars.

It’s extremely sad that states even need to take this action. When did lemonade become the new moonshine? It flies in the face of good sense that such things would be illegal. Adults don’t like being treated like children by the government, so children shouldn’t be subjected to the same restrictions as adults.