N.Y. Food Police Shut Down a 7-Year-Old's Lemonade Stand. This Bill Makes Sure They Can't Do It Again.

"Kids like Brendan Mulvaney are trying to give people sweet lemonade and learn some important business skills but the overzealous state bureaucrats just keep giving taxpayers lemons."


Last summer, a 7-year-old boy in upstate New York made headlines after health officials shut down the lemonade stand he was running from his family's porch. In response, a state senator introduced legislation exempting lemonade stands run by children from onerous state regulations. And on Tuesday, the bill was approved by the New York Senate's Health Committee and referred to the Finance Committee.

Reason's Scott Shackford had the details of the story at the time. Young Brendan Mulvaney set up shop at his home, which just happened to be in close proximity to a state fair. He probably wouldn't have gotten in trouble if not for some fair vendors, who were selling lemonade for $7 a cup. One cup of Mulvaney's lemonade, on the other hand, cost a far more reasonable 75 cents. (Mulvaney also sold snow cones and cold water.)

No doubt scared that Mulvaney's capitalistic tendencies would cut into their profits, the vendors complained to the Health Department, who showed up and shut down Mulvaney's operation. Under New York's health regulations, you see, temporary food establishments need to secure a $30 permit from health officials before they can start operations.

The situation attracted outrage after Mulvaney's dad, Sean, posted about it on Facebook. "There's more important things in life than shutting down a kid's lemonade stand," Sean told WRGB around that time. Eventually, the Health Department said it would allow Brendan to start back up again without obtaining a permit as long as he limited his wares to lemonade.

In response to the outrage, state Sen. Jim Tedisco (R–49) introduced legislation exempting child-operated lemonade stands from state health regulations. "A lemonade stand operated by a person under the age of 16 years shall not be considered to be a temporary food establishment," reads the most recent version of the bill, which was filed in January.

"There's nothing that says America more than apple pie and kids running lemonade stands. 'Brendan's Lemon-Aid Law for Children' will keep child-run lemonade stands open for business in New York State without this regulation hanging over them," said Tedisco in a statement. "It's a sad commentary on the current state of New York State's government that this legislation is needed to protect the entrepreneurial dreams of children selling lemonade. Kids like Brendan Mulvaney are trying to give people sweet lemonade and learn some important business skills but the overzealous state bureaucrats just keep giving taxpayers lemons."

The legislation currently has four additional Republican co-sponsors. It also has the support of at least one Democrat in the Assembly: Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (11), according to Tedisco's press release.

Lawmakers on the Senate Health Committee unanimously approved the legislation Tuesday, the Albany Times Union reported. "My 8-year-old is in the middle of selling Girl Scout cookies," said Sen. Brad Hoylman (D–27), who's on the committee. "Should I be concerned about a crackdown from the Department of Health for distributing Girl Scout cookies?"

Unsurprisingly, the Health Department does not support the legislation, with agency spokesperson Jill Montag suggesting to the Times Union that it's unnecessary. "The Department of Health will continue to use its discretion to not enforce regulations on children's lemonade stands that are limited to lemonade or a similar beverage," she said. Of course, as Tedisco's press release noted, if health officials are going to ignore this regulation for children's lemonade stands anyway, then the legislature may as well just get rid of it.

Tedisco's bill is similar to a law passed in Texas in March, which Reason's Billy Binion wrote about. Texas state law currently prohibits the sale of homemade drinks (at least unregulated ones), though the law in question would eliminate permit requirement for minors who want to sell lemonade. Earlier that month, a similar bill passed the Colorado legislature and was eventually signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat.

These sorts of laws undoubtedly represent positive developments. Children should be allowed to sell lemonade if they want, but unfortunately, there are plenty of examples of local officials cracking down on their entrepreneurial spirits.

But as Shackford noted last year, these cases also highlight the effect onerous occupational licensing regulations can have on adult-run businesses, though those sorts of stories attract significantly less outrage. In New York, for instance, becoming a barber requires a whopping 884 days of training, according to the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm.

Of course, we should be outraged when state officials shut down children's lemonade stands. But we should be upset that onerous licensing regulations can have detrimental effects on adults' careers as well.

NEXT: The ACLU is Suing D.C. Police for Searching a Home Without a Warrant

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  1. I predict disaster if this poorly thought out bill is passed.
    How will children learn the first lesson of business? The first lesson of business is that until you have contributed at least a million dollars to one or more political parties, you better damn well not try to do any business. They will remain ignorant of the gloriously protective nature of our benevolent overlords who protect us from plastic straws, freedom, and most importantly, individual action. How can these children of today become socialist propaganda fodder at colleges if they taste freedom at a young age? Running a lemonade stand will let them realize that their public school teachers are filling them with lies.
    We must protect the children at all costs!

  2. Child-entrepreneurs will be safe because there is a law that says so.


  3. It’s a sad state of affairs when we need a special law to allow this.

    1. Indeed.

      The state is now in almost total control and we need pathetic laws that carve out exceptions to that control.

  4. “The Department of Health will continue to use its discretion to not enforce regulations on children’s lemonade stands that are limited to lemonade or a similar beverage,”

    Huh… kay.

    1. I like how Jill Montag and the NY Health Department is desperate to maintain their ability to crush children’s dreams.

      They don’t even attempt to justify their opposition based on public health (you know, their supposed mission), instead they justify it with “but muh discretion to stomp on random children’s aspirations!”

  5. While on one hand, I like this…

    But why set the cutoff at 16 year olds? What is it about someone turning 16 that makes their otherwise-safe lemonade unsafe to drink?

    Or is this a case of the state granting a privilege (freedom from regulation) to a favored minority (kids)? Aren’t we supposed to be opposed to the state picking winners and losers?

    1. Not if it means the children are winners.

    2. I can think of some 16 year old girls that could get into trouble with a lemonade stand…

  6. This is definitely going to lead to many more deaths from bad lemonade!

  7. Sure, it starts with selling lemonade without a license. Next thing you know this kid is slinging dope in a back alley.

    1. Kids “sling” dope?

      1. Did I not use that term properly? I’m not woke, so I don’t know.

  8. “Kids like Brendan Mulvaney are trying to give people sweet lemonade and learn some important business skills but the overzealous state bureaucrats just keep giving taxpayers lemons.”

    Says the boss of the “overzealous state bureaucrats”. If only Comrade Stalin knew!

    Yeah, that’s the important business skills the kids are learning. Have the kids got a business license? Health department permit? An IRS tax ID number? Filed their quarterlies? Been run through the wringer such that they understand how damn difficult the government makes it for an individual to acquire a measure of freedom and independence and maybe starts questioning why the government seems to hate their servants getting a little taste of freedom and independence?

  9. So it only applies to children? When you turn 18 you feel the full force of the rule of law?

    1. No, when you turn 18 you should just leave the Peoples Republic of New York!

  10. Teaching kids that we have a free market is bad enough; letting them actually do business in one –when we know they won’t be allowed to as an adult– is nothing short of child abuse.

  11. Well, if the kid is old enough to force his parents to let him become a girl, he should be old enough to sell lemonade.

  12. Absurd that there has to be a bill introduced by the NY legislature. Embarrassing to be a New Yorker.

  13. I say put the little shit in a maximum security prison now.
    He obviously didn’t pay his taxes from his ill gotten gains from a nefarious capitalist enterprises.
    Such selfishness deserves all the pain, punishment and cruelty this wonderful socialist slave state can offer.
    Besides, its better these little capitalist demons recognize early on the free market is intrinsically evil and should be punished severely as a warning to the others.
    When this kid gets out of prison 90 years from now, then he can join a suitable organization to exorcise the capitalist demons from him.
    I recommend the Young Pioneers.
    They produced excellent socialists as history has shown.

  14. Lol that anyone would ever dare apply the same rules to the poor little oppressed princesses Hawking their diabetes bites.

  15. As sure as the Sun rises in the morning, Dumb-o-crat/Dhimmi-crat apparatchiks can’t resist the urge to exert control over everything in sight, no matter now innocuous, benign or trivial. This is the essence of a totalitarian ethos.

  16. […] a piece in Reason reminds us, a seven-year-old New York boy named Brendan Mulvaney made headlines last summer after […]

  17. […] a part inReasonreminds us, a seven-yr-ragged Fresh York boy named Brendan Mulvaney made headlines closing summer […]

  18. Why they’re at it get rid of Gov and Lord Andrew Homo.

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