Lemonade Stand Goes Sour For Young Entrepreneur
The latest victim of licensing fees and requirements: A seven-year-old Oregon entrepreneur and her lemonade stand.
Julie Murphy aspired to the classic kid summer job after watching the cartoon pig Olivia run a stand on TV. Instead of setting one up in the front yard, her mother Maria Fife thought she'd have more customers if Julie waited for the Last Thursday monthly art fair in Portland, a grassroots fair that's something of a free-for-all.
So Julie made a list of supplies (this is the 21st century, so hers included hand sanitizer) and a hand-lettered poster that read "Yummy." She set up shop in a wheelbarrow, and the customers came for 50 cent glasses of lemonade even before she'd finished making the first batch.
Twenty minutes later, it all went sour.
According to The Oregonian, a woman with a clipboard approached Julie and her mother, asking for the state-required $120 temporary restaurant license. When Fife said they didn't have one, the woman told them they needed to leave – or possibly face a $500 fine.
Supporters – the people staffing booths near Julie – rallied for the little girl's cause, even making an announcement to the crowd to support the stand. Business boomed. But the inspectors came back and shut the stand down.
"It was a very big scene," Fife told The Oregonian.
"I understand the reason behind what they're doing and it's a neighborhood event, and they're trying to generate revenue," said Jon Kawaguchi, environmental health supervisor for the Multnomah County Health Department. "But we still need to put the public's health first."
Would Julie have run into the same trouble if she'd been a little less ambitious and confined her stand to her front lawn? Probably not, said Eric Pippert, the food-borne illness prevention program manager for Oregon's public health division.
"When you go to a public event and set up shop, you're suddenly engaging in commerce," Pippert said. "The fact that you're small-scale I don't think is relevant."
After a public outcry (and plenty of donors willing to fund a license for Julie), Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen this week apologized to the girl and her mother and told county health department workers to use "professional discretion" in doing their jobs.
"A lemonade stand is a classic, iconic American kid thing to do," he said. "I don't want to be in the business of shutting that down."
As for Julie, she refers to the shutdown as "a bad day." But it hasn't broken her entrepreneurial spirit -- or put her totally out of business: Her mother has said she can set up shop again at a neighborhood garage sale.
Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.