Austin’s Lemon License

A city councilwoman is working to eliminate an absurd city policy that requires kids aspiring to operate lemonade stands to pay the city for a permit.

Currently, aspiring young entrepreneurs are required to obtain a $35 permit in order to operate a lemonade stand. Councilwoman Ellen Troxclair has been pushing to #FreeTheLemonade – and has been working on a resolution to do just that since she first learned about the regulations.

Thirty-five dollars may not seem like a lot for a license – but for a kid whose business acumen comes from hours playing Roller Coaster Tycoon relying on a concoction of sugar, lemons and water to turn a profit, an additional $35 in startup costs may prevent them from starting entirely.

It is ironic that this could actually be an effective first lesson in government red tape for aspiring future entrepreneurs.

The most ridiculous part of the whole thing is how it came to light. Troxclair became aware of the regulations after council approved a resolution related to “Lemonade Day” – the annual council-designated day during which kids can sell lemonade without a permit.

The regulations are intended for temporary food establishments – which, according to code, encompasses children’s lemonade stands. But the fact that a single day annually is designated for this purpose actually makes the entire thing more offensive – as it indicates that city officials have at least been aware of the fact that their regulatory zeal over food-related businesses has glossed over an entirely harmless activity in an insane way.

City officials have claimed that policing lemonade stands is not a goal – squads do not make a mission out of inspecting and regulating eight-year-olds selling lemonade. That doesn’t mean this kind of thing can’t happen, though. Take for instance an incident that occurred in San Antonio not too long ago where a woman was arrested and issued a $2,000 fine for feeding the homeless in the area without a permit.

That citation was ultimately rescinded – but not until a significant backlash from the community. The bottom line here – and something Councilwoman Troxclair understands – is that if laws are put into writing, they will inevitably be enforced in whatever ways possible, no matter how insane they are.

Fortunately, Troxclair’s measure seems to have significant support, including the support of Mayor Adler. Council is expected to vote on the resolution Thursday.

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Greg Harrison

Gregory led the Central Texas Bureau for Empower Texans and Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he got involved politically through the Young Conservatives of Texas. He enjoys fishing, grilling, motorcycling, and of course, all things related to firearms.

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