Sisters forced to shut down lemonade stand in Ottawa

lemonade stand
CC BY 2.0 Paul Schadler

The National Capital Commission states it's illegal to sell anything without a permit, which rapidly puts an end to all kid-run entrepreneurial ventures. What's this world coming to?

There’s nothing like a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day, which is why cyclists and walkers making their way along Colonel By Drive in Ottawa last week took full advantage of a temporary lemonade stand set up by seven-year-old Eliza Andrews and her five-year-old sister Adela. The two girls made a killing with their little business venture, earning $52 including tips on their $1-per-glass lemonade in less than two hours. All of these funds would be used to help pay for summer camp, after covering expenses.

After a few hours, a woman came by on a bicycle and informed the sisters that they were “not allowed” to have a lemonade stand there. Their father Kurtis Andrews was not sufficiently convinced, so they remained until an official from the National Capital Commission (NCC) showed up in a flak jacket and told them they weren’t allowed to sell anything on NCC property without a permit. Andrews offered to purchase a permit on the spot, but wasn’t given the option. The girls had to pack up their stand and head home.

Kurtis Andrews was understandably irritated by the NCC’s rigidity, telling the CBC:

“I think that they need to relax a bit. I understand that they have to manage their properties but at the same time we're talking about a five and seven-year-old raising money for camp.”

Andrews went on to explain that having a lemonade stand provides great opportunities for his daughters to learn multiplication and addition, as well as business skills, but he added, “I can say with some confidence that they got an additional lesson today on business, at least in Ottawa here, and that's a valuable lesson, too.”

Unfortunately it’s a lesson in how stifling bureaucracy can be. It’s the perfect way to destroy a child’s natural entrepreneurial drive, to shut it down quickly and completely and present a lengthy procedure through which to obtain a permit. Few children would attempt to get a permit for a lemonade stand, and most would likely lose heart after initiating the process. Lemonade stands tend to be spontaneous ventures, after all.

A better option would be for customers to assume responsibility for themselves when purchasing lemonade from children. Surely most of us have had lemonade stands at some point in our lives, or had children who had them, to understand that grubby fingers, wayward insects, and stray bits of dirt are all part of the experience. The incongruity of lemonade stands compared to all other retail ventures is precisely what makes them so delightful to support. Every single time you buy a glass, children look delighted and amazed by the transformation of time and effort into tangible coins in their hand.

Eliza and Adela haven’t given up. They may have been sent home that one day, but they intend to keep doing lemonade, though they told the CBC it would most likely be at their house from now on.

UPDATE: According to a more recent CBC article pointed out by a commenter, "The National Capital Commission issued a special permit on Wednesday to seven-year-old Eliza and five-year-old Adela Andrews, with the condition that the girls donate all their earnings this Sunday to charity."

Related Content on