New Hampshire

New Hampshire and Illinois Are Legalizing Unlicensed Lemonade Stands

A bill signed into law this month in Illinois and one awaiting governor approval in New Hampshire would let kids sell non-alcoholic beverages outside their homes.


Illinois and New Hampshire both recently passed bills to legalize a favorite American summer tradition: lemonade stands operated by kids. 

New Hampshire's bill passed the legislature last week and is awaiting a signature from Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. It allows kids under the age of 14 to sell soft drinks on their private property without getting licenses or permits from cities and towns that otherwise require them. The term "soft drink" includes not only lemonade but also other mixed, non-alcoholic beverages. 

The bill received a surprising amount of pushback in the state legislature. The applicable age was 18 when the bill was introduced but was later amended to 14. Some state legislators also thought that the bill was unnecessary, as there has never been a publicized incident of an authority shuttering an unlicensed lemonade stand in the past. 

"This seems to me like one of those solutions in search of a problem," Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy (D) told WMUR

But just because this tolerated illegality hasn't caused a problem yet, doesn't mean that it won't cause a problem in the future if the bill doesn't become law. Consider the incident in Illinois that spurred Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign a similar bill two weeks ago. 

In 2017, then 9-year-old Hayli Martenez opened a lemonade stand in her front yard in a low-income neighborhood of Kankakee, Illinois. She charged 50 cents per cup. All of the profit went to her college fund. 

"As we kept doing it, I got to see everybody smile when they tasted my lemonade," Hayli told Illinois Policy. "It was just … wow. They were lining up to get my lemonade."

But in July of 2019, Hayli received notice from state and city health officials that she would have to shut down the stand or be fined. She ended up switching the stand to donation-only, but the incident received state-wide attention. 

Now, roughly two years later, the state has passed "Hayli's Law" to protect her business and those of other entrepreneurial kids around the state. 

"Who would have thought you would need a lemonade law?" said Hayli's mom Iva. "But it wasn't about the lemonade. It was about being able to take what you have and make it work for you. We turned lemons into lemonade."

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law," the Illinois law reads, "the Department of Public Health, the health department of a unit of local government, or a public health district may not regulate the sale of lemonade or nonalcoholic drinks or mixed beverages by a person under the age of 16."

This is not an isolated incident. Reason has reported on similar cases across the country for years. 

The necessity of these "Lemonade Laws" is a byproduct of hastily passed licensure requirements and regulations that don't take into account the full consequences of their enforcement. Oftentimes, irregular enforcement of these requirements can be used to shut down businesses arbitrarily deemed to be "undesirable."

Hopefully, these small steps for lemonade stands will draw attention to the overly broad licensing requirements that defy both common sense and the entrepreneurial spirit of America.