When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But if you’re a kid who plans on selling this tangy beverage, it might be a good idea to speak with a lawyer first. In America and elsewhere, ordinary lemonade stands have been a driving force behind everything from world record attempts to life-altering charities. On the other hand, they also have a knack for starting legal controversies. As many city halls can attest, these scuffles often have big repercussions for entire communities. Here’s a look at 15 lemonade stands that—for better or for worse—left a mark on the world at large.
1. TROUBLED STAND INSPIRES BIPARTISANSHIP AND A FRESH “LEMONADE BILL”
Louisiana is synonymous with Mardi Gras parties and Cajun cuisine. In the near future, it might also become the lemonade stand capital of the world. Earlier this year, a Democratic state senator from the Bayou State introduced a bill that would exempt minors from needing to obtain an occupational license before setting up a lemonade stand—so long as the kiddies’ profits don’t exceed $500 per year. The politician says that he was inspired to take action when a child-run stand was cited for not having its paperwork in order. Disgusted by the incident, Democrats and Republicans alike rallied to support young entrepreneurs throughout their state. The proposal—dubbed the “Lemonade Bill” by the press—was unanimously approved in the Louisiana House and Senate, and signed into law on May 27.
2. LEMONADE CONTROVERSY PROMPTS FORT WORTH TO RE-EXAMINE ITS ZONING LAWS
In 1987, three brothers in Fort Worth, Texas, scored a sweet victory. To raise money for their church and fund a family vacation, the boys started a lemonade stand. Things were going well, until a neighbor anonymously complained to city hall about the tiny business. Once these remarks had been filed, zoning officials had no choice but to shut down the operation. A sign that read “closed by city order,” was slapped onto the stand, resulting in a huge public outcry. When asked to justify this decision, public servants claimed that the boys were illegally running a commercial enterprise in a residential area. Fortunately, this setback proved to be temporary. After a week of bad press, the city changed its tune when an overlooked provision in the law was discovered. Since the stand wasn’t open year-round and didn’t sell pre-packaged products, Fort Worth reclassified it as a home-use business. Thus, the children were allowed to re-enter the beverage game. The town’s mayor extended an olive branch by offering them a new venue on his nearby property. They politely turned him down.
3. STAND OWNERSHIP TEACHES FUTURE BILLIONAIRE THE WAYS OF CAPITALISM
With a net worth of more than $66 billion, one of America’s most famous investors is easily one of the wealthiest men alive. In his youth, the Omaha native did what budding entrepreneurs often do: open a lemonade stand. But unlike most kids, this future businessman recognized the value of a good location. The child noticed that more pedestrians walked past a friend’s house than his own home—and so he arranged to build the stand on his pal’s lawn.
4. PLUCKY BROOKLYNITE HELPS TURN THE LEMONADE STAND INTO AN AMERICAN INSTITUTION
Historians don’t know where, when, or by whom the first lemonade stand was established. However, one journalist is often credited with popularizing the concept. Born in the Netherlands, Edward Bok (1863-1930) immigrated with his family to Brooklyn, New York as a boy. By the time he passed away, Bok had achieved national fame as the longtime editor of a women’s lifestyle periodical, and was a vocal women’s suffrage advocate. In 1921, his autobiography was released. The book was a huge critical success and even won a major literary prize. Inside, the author reviews his childhood business ventures. Bok claimed that, as a boy, he used to make money during the summer months by selling ice water on Brooklyn’s muggy streets. When competitors started to peddle their own ice water, Bok wrote, he upped the ante by squeezing “half a dozen lemons into each pail of water.” Then, he’d add some sugar and shout “Lemonade, three cents a glass!” Today, it’s believed that this published anecdote helped inspire a generation of kids to follow suit.
5. FLORIDA TOWN DRAGGED INTO THE LIMELIGHT BY LEMONADE STANDOFF
Naples, Florida, got some unwanted press in 2003. It all began when a neighborhood dispute resulted in the hasty closure of a six-year-old’s lemonade stand. The girl’s parents elected to shut down her business after their next-door neighbor informed the police that it was operating without a permit. A local station picked up the story and before long, pundits on national television were weighing in. The girl received several hundred dollars’ worth of unsolicited donations from sympathizers; meanwhile, the girl’s neighbor was given something else to complain about. Angry passersby took to pelting her house with lemons. As a result of the brouhaha, Naples considered some new beverage policies. But by a margin of three votes, the city council rejected a proposed law that would have required all lemonade stands to obtain a business license.
6. HIGH-PROFILE LEMONADE STAND BECOMES A PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN ISSUE
When one American president ran for our country’s highest office in 1976, his daughter kept herself busy with a lemonade stand. Then just eight years old, the girl (and one of her friends) set up shop just outside of the family residence, where thirsty journalists made for reliable customers. At one point, a reporter lightheartedly told the candidate that members of the press ought to receive a discount. The candidate’s response? “Reporters should pay double.”
7. TURF WAR LEADS TO HISTORIC “MERGER”
A sausage stand owner in Salem, Massachusetts, faced some stiff competition in 2005. That summer, two local boys began selling homemade lemonade on his turf. Since the professional vendor also sold this citrusy beverage, conflict was inevitable. The sausage man asked Salem’s finest to talk the kids into relocating. Instead, the officers shut down the children’s lemonade business because neither boy had purchased a $2200 vendor’s license. But the story didn’t end there. Hoping to make peace, the mayor of Salem negotiated a special arrangement between the two rival parties. In what was described as a “corporate merger,” the salesman allowed the boys to sell lemonade under his own license as sub-contractors—at least until the school year started.
8. CANADIAN AGENCY APOLOGIZES AFTER TERMINATING STAND
In July 2016, Canada’s National Capital Commission (NCC) found itself in hot water when it closed an Ottawa lemonade stand that was owned and operated by two little girls. The entrepreneurs were sisters—just five and seven years old—who’d been saving dough so they could attend summer camp. In order to take advantage of a public road’s foot traffic, the girls opened up on NCC-regulated land. An officer promptly informed their parents that if the sisters didn’t take their business elsewhere, they’d be fined. What followed was a public opinion battle that the NCC couldn’t possibly win. The commission formally apologized and issued the girls a special permit that allowed them to re-open the stand. In return, the girls donated all of their profits to charity, as per the NCC’s request.
9. CHILD-RUN STAND RAISES RELIEF FUNDS FOR HURRICANE KATRINA VICTIMS
In 2006, an 11-year-old humanitarian came up with one delicious way to raise funds for the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort. Determined to help out, the boy and his family rented some space at a merchants’ market near their Kyle, Texas, home. There, the whole gang opened up a charity lemonade stand that generated $540 for the American Red Cross over the course of a single weekend.
10. VOCAL GRANDMOTHER ADVOCATES LEMONADE REFORM
For a $5 fee, anyone can set up his or her own lemonade stand within the city limits of Okmulgee, Oklahoma. But this wasn’t always the case. In June 2016, a local seven-year-old tried getting one off the ground but was told to cease operations by a police officer. That’s when her grandmother took action. When the woman complained to city hall, officials put the current, business-friendly lemonade legislation in place.
11. BEVERAGE-TOUTING ANIMAL LOVER GIVES LOCAL SHELTER A BOOST
Last July, a girl on Long Island raised several hundred dollars for a local animal rescue and adoption center. How’d she do it? With lemonade, of course. One day, the precocious six-year-old told her folks that she wanted to help homeless pets find new families. To accommodate the girl, her parents and neighbors constructed a charming lemonade stand. Upon settling in, the wee activist began to selling off her sugary drinks at 50 cents apiece. Customers were also given flyers promoting the nearby shelter. Thanks to the girl’s profits—plus some free advertising—the organization was able to purchase tracking chips for some 59 animals, all of whom were adopted.
12. MARYLAND COUNTY IGNORES PERMIT LAWS TO HELP LEMONADE STAND CAPITALIZE ON GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP
“What happened to the entrepreneurial spirit? I mean this is the American dream.” Such were the protestations of one parent after local government officials closed a lemonade stand that her child had co-founded in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2011, the year the town hosted the U.S. Open Championship. Four business-savvy kids decided to take advantage of the situation by planting a lemonade stand near Congressional Country Club, where the big-time sports event was taking place. It looked like the kids were in for a big score—and then the town bureaucracy got involved. A representative from Montgomery County’s Department of Permitting fined the children $500 for (you guessed it) operating without a permit. As it happens, a TV news team was on hand to film part of this exchange. The resultant backlash from viewers and eyewitnesses was both immediate and unrelenting. By day’s end, the county decided to cancel the fine. Officials also allowed the kids to continue selling their drinks if they’d agree to move the stand two feet away from its previous location, which had bordered a congested street.
13. SOLITARY STAND GIVES BIRTH TO CANCER FOUNDATION
The little girl behind one nationwide charity hadn’t even reached her first birthday when she was diagnosed with childhood cancer. At age four, the heroic girl found a way to fight back, asking her parents to help her set up a lemonade stand that would raise money to help other children who were suffering from cancer. Word spread and, within a single day, she earned an astonishing $2000. Encouraged, she launched a second stand one year later. These inspired copycat establishments from a host of other kids, who also began selling lemonade for cancer relief. Sadly, the young philanthropist passed away in 2004, at just eight years old. But she left an impressive legacy behind: The girl, and those who’d followed her lead, had raised more than $1 million total. The following year, her parents launched an official foundation, dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. To date, the charity has funded more than 650 cancer research projects and raised upwards of $127 million.
14. EUSTIS, FLORIDA, PULLS A 180 ON LEMONADE STAND LEGALITY
On one peculiar day in 2000, a lemonade stand that had been running for years was shut down, only to be hastily re-opened in a matter of hours. The booth was the pride and joy of a local nine-year-old girl, who’d long been selling juicy beverages there. Despite its longevity, a zoning law enforcement official instructed the child to close her stand for reasons unknown. That evening, the girl’s father contacted City Hall to protest. Improbably, the code and zoning commissioner took his side. Without a moment’s hesitation, this high-ranking government employee said that the stand’s forced closure was triggered by “an error in judgment” and that it could be reopened. However, the administrator also insisted that the establishment be moved eight feet away from the nearest roadside.
15. LEMON-LOVERS SET WORLD RECORD
At a 2011 charity fundraiser, community members in Birmingham, Michigan, were encouraged to purchase wooden lemonade stands at a cost of $50 each. Afterwards, 349 of these were merged together into a single, marvelous unit by parents, teachers, and students of the Birmingham Public School District. From end to end, the amalgamated lemonade stand measured 1399 feet and 11 inches long—enough to secure its place in history. Profits from the event were used to support both public schools and an assortment of educational initiatives.