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Local governments couldn’t force kids’ lemonade stands to be licensed under proposal in Washington House

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 22, 2020

OLYMPIA – Washington kids selling lemonade in their front yard might soon get the protection of the state against any move by a local government or health agency to make them get a license or be shut down.

As long as they don’t set up the stand for 30 days or more a year, sell it a glass at a time and aren’t selling a spiked version of the drink, a bill under consideration by a House committee would let them indulge their entrepreneurial spirit without a local permit, license or fee. Proper spelling of their beverage might be required.

Rep. Luanne Van Werven, R-Lynden, introduced the bill at the request of a constituent in Bellingham who was angry that an “overzealous bureaucrat” had approached his daughter while she was peddling lemonade out of the front yard, and said she needed a permit. The girl was so intimidated that she packed up the stand and went inside, Van Werven said.

“It was important to the father. He is an entrepreneur,” Van Werven said. The father asked her if the Legislature could do something.

She introduced a bill to prevent local governments from regulating nonalcoholic beverages sales by minors on private property, and got some input from the Health Department for an amendment that limits the number of days, requires single servings, clean hands and a beverage that doesn’t spoil if it isn’t served a particular temperature.

Local Government Committee Chairman Jerry Pollet, D-Seattle, said he’d never heard of anyone trying to shut down a lemonade stand. Van Werven said there have been some issues with kids’ lemonade stands around the country and she wanted to “encourage entrepreneurship in the next generation.”

“Is there any provision to ensure children spell ‘lemonade’ accurately?” Pollet asked.

Not now, but she’d be willing to add it. The committee will decide in the coming weeks whether to send the bill to the floor.

In a later interview, Van Werven said she was just trying to clear up any questions in the law, although she conceded it is an issue where the public might ask whether the state actually needs a law.

“We ask ourselves that question on a daily basis,” she said.

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