Michigan regulators could shut down your child’s lemonade stand

Michigan regulators could shut down your child’s lemonade stand

As states around the country pass laws to protect kids’ lemonade stands from vague and overreaching regulations, Michigan’s legal landscape remains murky.

The lemonade stand is a quintessential American example of childhood initiative and entrepreneurship.

But in many cases, Michigan’s municipal regulations prohibit operating one without a permit. Moreover, it is often unclear when a permit is even required.

While several states have passed laws explicitly exempting kids’ lemonade stands from any licensing requirements, Michigan has continued to leave lemonade stands in a legal gray area – subject to a nebulous patchwork of state, county and municipal regulations.

Michigan’s largest city, Detroit, does not specifically address lemonade stands in its municipal code – leaving vague the legal status of these childhood entrepreneurial endeavors. But an ordinance does state that it is“unlawful to conduct or to maintain any business or occupation of foot vendor, stationary vendor, or street vendor in the City without first having obtained a license…”

Additionally, Detroit requires “any business conducted for the purpose of selling or offering for sale” food or drink to be “operated in a permanent structure or building,” with the exception of “approved mobile food services” and “temporary food operations” which have prior approval from a litany of bureaucratic agencies, including the health department and the City Council.

Lemonade stands operating in Detroit without a permit or license appear to run afoul of these provisions, and violators can be fined up to $500 – and even sentenced up to 90 days in jail, or both.

Similarly, the city of Grand Rapids makes it illegal to be a mobile food vendor “without first having obtained a license.” Ann Arbor’s city code goes even further to state that no person is allowed to “solicit[] contributions or sell[] goods for the benefit or purported benefit of a charitable, religious or educational organization or cause” in a public space without first obtaining a permit.

Michigan state law imposes lighter restrictions on “cottage foods” prepared at home – which are often sold at farmers markets, bake sales or other similar venues. But beverages are categorically ineligible to be considered cottage foods. Under state law, beverages are considered “[p]otentially hazardous foods” that “must be produced in a licensed kitchen.”

While there are no recorded instances in which Michigan police or health departments have shut down a kid’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, aged 7 and 8, because they had not procured the necessary $150 permit or health inspection. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed in 2019 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.

In another example, Denver police shut down in 2018 a lemonade stand run by two brothers because they lacked a $125 permit. Their 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 in 2017 with fines if she did not cease operations.

One thing is certain: The legal landscape for lemonade stands in Michigan is nebulous and complex, filled with overlapping rules at the state, county, and municipal levels. Moreover, vaguely written regulations are ripe for abuse – as has been the case in many states where lemonade stands have previously been targeted.

Michigan should follow the lead of other states who have taken action to protect the great tradition of children’s lemonade stands. Most recently, Hayli’s Law was signed into law July 9 in Illinois – guaranteeing the liberty of children to sell lemonade statewide.

Michigan lawmakers should protect kids running lemonade stands from overzealous state and local regulators. All children deserve the freedom to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit and take part in this cherished American pastime – without worrying about running afoul of the law and being hit with onerous fines.

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