Among bills for small business, ‘big lemonade’ stands out

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Photo by Julie Depenbrock/Capital News Service

By Ryan E. Little
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — State legislators always want to support small business. But one bill introduced this session aims to help the smallest of businesses.

A bill introduced in the Maryland House would protect lemonade stands from local authorities who might want to enforce local permit laws that could shut them down.

The legislation coincides with a national movement led by Country Time Lemonade that has sought to introduce similar bills all over the country.

Besides support from “big lemonade,” groups that represent cities and counties in Maryland aren’t opposing it.

“This bill is certainly about the little guy,” said Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) Parrott introduced the bill with co-sponsor Del. Steve Johnson (D-Harford County).

“When I saw (the national movement), I said we got to bring that to Maryland because what happened in Montgomery County was shameful and really hurtful to little kids,” Parrott said. “That’s not the message we want to send them.”

It is unclear how many counties in Maryland have tried to enforce laws that could ban the operation of lemonade stands, but the most prominent recent occurrence happened in Montgomery County. Congressional Country Club was the host of the 2011 U.S. Open golf tournament when county officials fined a half-dozen children $500 for operating a lemonade stand nearby.

In a joint interview with the Capital News Service Wednesday, the two lawmakers said the bill is needed to protect young entrepreneurs making their first attempts at operating in a market-based economy.

Parrott introduced the bill after seeing others that passed in Texas and Colorado in 2019 but said he didn’t know about the efforts by the Country Time Lemonade brand, owned by the Kraft Heinz Co., until more recently.

The company started its campaign in 2018 by paying off some lemonade stand fines “due to outdated permit laws” and has now grown its efforts into supporting laws like Parrott’s all over the country. It even operates a website that tracks states it says allow lemonade stands without permits—16 by its count as of May.

“Whether you live in a red state or blue state, every state can be a yellow state,” the site says.

A company representative did not respond to a request for comment.

The fine in Montgomery County was rescinded the same day it was issued, but bill supporters want to make sure that doesn’t happen to their children.

“I think my children would be terrified if the local police department pulled up in our driveway and gave them a $500 ticket,” said Kelly Donohue, whose three daughters operate a lemonade stand in front of their Queen Anne’s County home two or three times each summer.

“They would probably never want to operate a business of that nature ever again.”

So far, it seems like the bill won’t encounter much opposition. Both the Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League have decided not to oppose the bill.

“I don’t think we have any Maryland counties who actively want to go out and enforce permits and inspections on kids running lemonade stands,” said Michael Sanderson, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties. “The bill is written narrowly and we won’t have a problem with it.”

Even Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich doesn’t have a problem with it.

Elrich (D) told Capital News Service he “wouldn’t mind” if the state kept him from shuttering lemonade stands.

“It’s hard to imagine what ingredients in lemonade could be deadly,” Elrich said, tongue-in-cheek. “Diabetics should know to stay away.”

The bill would prohibit any city or council from regulating the sale of any nonalcoholic beverage sold by anyone younger than 18.

It is expected to have its first hearing before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on Tuesday.



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