Letting children open permit-free, lemonade stands

Kevin Landrigan, The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester
·3 min read

Apr. 19—CONCORD — Whether a municipality should be able to put the squeeze on young entrepreneurs by requiring licenses for lemonade stands came before a state Senate committee on Monday.

State Rep. Chris True, R-Sandown, said his bill (HB 183) to make these permits for children illegal isn't the "most earth-shattering subject" lawmakers will take up in 2021, but it's not a flippant crusade on his part either.

"I believe the bill is making a very important statement, and that is there are areas of our lives and our children's lives that aren't the job of the government," True told the Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee.

Many children literally get their first taste of the free market when they open a lemonade stand in front of their home, hoping to make a few dollars selling cold drinks on a hot summer day.

In many states across the country, these stands technically are in violation of temporary license laws that require all sellers of any age to get a local permit.

New Hampshire is not a home-rule state, so cities and towns typically only have powers the state Legislature has expressly given them.

The state has a "hawkers and peddlers" license law which governs temporary or seasonal businesses that sell items on a public way in any community.

Many cities and towns have local ordinances that spell out additional requirements beyond the state license.

Both supporters and opponents of True's bill agree there's never been a case of a fine levied against a New Hampshire youth, but it has happened elsewhere.

In Maryland, the grandparent of one in a group of children was fined $500 in 2011, though the penalty was later rescinded. In Texas, two girls ran a drink stand until it was shut down for lack of a $150 permit.

"I cannot find any compelling interest for a town to regulate a child's soft drink stand they have set up on the front lawn," True said.

The bill doesn't limit these drink stands to private property. True told the Senate committee Monday he wouldn't oppose an amendment with that restriction.

The original bill addressed lemonade, but a House committee expanded it to cover all soft drinks, True said.

'Clearly unnecessary here'

Opponents said the bill was unnecessary and insulting to leaders of local communities.

"It has never come up in New Hampshire, and it probably never will," said Cordell Johnston, government affairs counsel with the New Hampshire Municipal Association.

"Our concern is the state telling towns not to do something they weren't going to do anyway. It is clearly unnecessary here."

Rep. Timothy Horrigan, D-Durham, said cities and towns should retain the authority to prevent these drink stands along busy streets that could become a safety hazard for pedestrians or bicyclists.

"This attacks a problem that does not exist," Horrigan said.

Similar bills such as this one have sprung up in other states since Kraft Foods, the makers of Country Time Lemonade, began an advertising campaign about five years ago, offering to cover the legal costs for all children prosecuted or fined for selling citrus drinks without a license.

According to Country Time's "Legal-Ade" website, unpermitted lemonade stands are illegal in 34 states, including New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island.

The site says the stands are legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York in the Northeast.

Nancy Vaughan, director of government relations with the American Heart Association in New Hampshire, said state lawmakers should avoid adopting these mandates on all localities.

"One-size-fits-all rules don't necessarily fit well in all communities," Vaughan said.

Earlier this month, the bill barely survived a move to shelve it.

On April 9, the House voted 190-181 against tabling the bill; the House then passed it, 211-163 along partisan lines.

Republicans backed the bill, 197-4, while Democrats opposed it, 159-14.

klandrigan@unionleader.com