When Did Lemonade Stands Become So Potentially Dangerous?

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Lemonade Day participants in Austin, Texas, are expected to adhere to a ridiculous number of food prep rules and regulations. It's the perfect way to kill a kid's entrepreneurial drive.

The city of Austin, Texas, has an annual Lemonade Day, when children across the city are encouraged to set up lemonade stands, make some money, and learn valuable lessons about running a business, albeit a rather small one.

The Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas, which has been supporting the official Lemonade Day since 2009, says the program has “served over 80,000 young people in the Austin area [who] in turn have sold more than $1.5 million of lemonade and donated over $750K to local non-profits.”

The Foundation states that Lemonade Day is important for kids because it teaches them about “creating budgets, setting profit-making goals, serving customers, repaying investors, and giving back to the community. Along the way, they acquire skills in goal-setting, problem solving, and gain self-esteem critical for future success.”

It’s a great idea – in theory alone. The reality is much more complicated. There are so many rules associated with Lemonade Day that the mere thought of attempting to set up a city-approved lemonade stand is overwhelming.

Lemonade Day was scheduled for May 7, 2016, so back in February, a special ordinance was passed by the City to waive the requirements for both a temporary food permit and fees in the amount of $35 and a license agreement and fees in the amount of $425 for use of public property. All Lemonade Day participants, however, are still required to follow the City’s temporary food service guidelines. These include:

• Food contact surfaces of equipment shall be protected from contamination by consumers by using separating counters, tables, sneeze guards, etc.
• Use 3 containers for washing, rinsing & sanitizing. Sanitizing solution must be kept between 50-100ppm chlorine.
• Use a gravity-type water dispenser for hand washing. Do not forget hand washing soap, paper towels and catch basin.
• Provide a ceiling or canopy above beverage preparation and service areas.
• No eating, drinking, smoking is allowed in the food booth.

If a kid somehow manages to stay enthusiastic through the lengthy list of rules, they will finally get to the end, where it says:

To enjoy a fun and safe Lemonade Day, follow these rules:
1) Don’t set up your lemonade stand on the sidewalk
2) Don’t set up your lemonade stand on a driveway
3) Don’t set up your lemonade stand on the street curbs, medians or islands
4) Don’t set up your lemonade stand in parking spaces.

Oh, and parents have to sign a waiver agreeing to “release, indemnify, defend and hold harmless the organizers of Lemonade Day and anyone associated with it or Lemonade Day from any and all claims for personal injuries or property damage resulting from my child/ren’s participation in Lemonade Day, even if such injury is caused by the negligence of them.”

This is ridiculous. Way to kill a kid’s entrepreneurial drive altogether. While the desire to create rules is understandable, there comes a point when paper-pushing adults seriously need to take a step back and realize that
(a) A lemonade stand is unlikely to kill someone or make customers violently ill;
(b) Most customers with a modicum of intelligence understand the associated risks of purchasing drinks from grubby, sticky children sitting behind a table;
(c) Kids need to do their own thing without constantly being told by adults how to do it more safely.

Lemonade stands are a rite of summer childhoods. It is the most basic of enterprises, usually a spontaneous attempt to get some extra pocket money, a short-lived endeavor that ends once boredom sets in. Regulations should not factor into a kid’s decision about whether to dig through the freezer, mix up some concentrate, and set out cups on a folding table.

Seriously, Austin needs to take it down a notch. Surely the city has bigger battles to fight when it comes to health and safety. Rather than getting all proud of the special ordinance, the city should be waiving all regulations and letting kids do their own thing for Lemonade Day. How about, instead of attacking the creative enterprising children, creating an ordinance that says, “Anyone who buys from a lemonade stand must take responsibility for what they buy and consume”? That’s more like it.