Lemonade stands rile bureaucrats. Is this American?

Image: National Archives at College Park [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Another weekend, another lemonade stand shut down.

Last Memorial Day weekend, the city of Denver brought us the story of Jennifer Knowles and her three sons’ lemonade stand being shut down.

Over this past weekend, the state of New York brought us the story of Brendan Mulvaney, a 7-year-old boy from Ballston Spa in Saratoga County.

Brendan and his family, like Knowles and her sons, set up a lemonade stand this past weekend near the Saratoga County Fair being held on public fairgrounds and began selling lemonade to those passing by.

Brendan was hoping to raise money for a family trip to Disney World.

Then, the New York Department of Health showed up to teach Brendan that dreams don’t always come true.

As in Denver, it was local vendors at the festival who complained about the Mulvaneys’ stand to an on-site Health Department official.

When the official walked over to the Mulvaneys’ house, she immediately asked whether they had a permit to run the lemonade stand. While the official was wearing a Department of Health shirt, she did not introduce herself, leave any contact information, or conduct an inspection.

Brendan did not have a permit for the stand, so the official told his parents to shut it down. But according to Health Department spokeswoman Jill Montag, the department “does not issue permits for, or oversee, lemonade stands.”

So why was Brendan’s stand shut down?

The Health Department has not yet answered this question, but the department did eventually issue an apology to Brendan and his family and started an investigation into the incident.

That offers little consolation to Brendan, as the county fair is now over, but he and his family are receiving support from one local politician.

New York state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, recently visited Brendan and his family and has been outspoken about the overzealous bureaucrats in New York state.

Tedisco tweeted about the incident and declared that he isn’t “going to let bureaucrats win on this.”

In another tweet, Tedisco confirmed that, according to the Ballston Spa mayor, local city ordinances exempt children under the age of 14 from needing a permit to sell lemonade.

That again raises the question, why did the New York Department of Health shut down Brendan’s lemonade stand?

Knowles and her children’s experience with local regulators showed that crony capitalism and government bureaucracy are real problems in our local neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, Brendan’s story now highlights those problems even more. He will, however, continue with what he set out to do.

Despite being shut down this past weekend, Brendan plans to reopen his lemonade stand in August for another festival at the fairgrounds to continue raising money for his family trip.

Reproduced with permission. Original can be viewed here.


Portrait of Jonathan Zalewski

Jonathan Zalewski is a visiting legal fellow and Koch associate at The Heritage Foundation.