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6 Illicit Lemonade Stands Towns Had to Shut Down

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Lemonade stand image via Shutterstock

For generations, entrepreneurial kids have set up card tables in front yards to sell ice cold drinks to passers-by. But sometimes the law catches up with these renegade youngsters.

1. 1983 – Belleair, Florida

Like a lot of kids, six-year old Ali Thorn wanted to make some money. She didn’t have dreams of fancy cars, yachts, or a place in the Hamptons, though; she just wanted enough to buy stickers. However, her tiny dreams came crashing down when police received an anonymous tip that her crude cardboard sign in the front yard did not comply with the city’s ordinances. Officer Ed Warren reluctantly delivered the news to Ali and her mom that the lemonade stand would have to come down.

But the Thorns didn’t just roll over. They went to the next Belleair Town Commission meeting to complain and, a few days later, the commission decided that the sign ordinance wasn’t designed to prevent kids from setting up their own front yard businesses. They also decided that anonymous complaints about ordinance violations would no longer be allowed.

So, eleven days after it was shut down, Ali’s shop opened again. The first person in line to buy a cup of her homemade lemonade was Officer Warren. To show there were no hard feelings, Ali let him have the drink for free.

2. 1988 – Watchung, New Jersey

In the summer of 1988, Max’s Soda Stand, run by 9-year old Max Schilling, was cited by Watchung officials for zoning violations after they said his 7’ tall stand was considered a permanent structure and that it sat too close to the street. With daily sales of about $12.50, Max couldn’t afford the $500 per day fine he’d receive if he stayed in business, so he reluctantly closed up shop.

In response to the city’s citation, Max’s dad jumped into action. The first thing he did was call the local newspaper, which was thrilled to run a juicy story about city hall “squeezing” a kid’s lemonade stand. He also paid the $250 fee to apply for a zoning variance, and then contacted zoning lawyer Daniel Bernstein, who offered to work the case pro bono. According to a contemporary New York Times story, at the variance hearing, Bernstein argued that the stand should be considered an accessory, rather than a separate structure, and was prepared to bring in engineers and architects to testify if necessary.

Two weeks after the hearing, the city allowed Max to reopen with a few conditions, but he ended up losing $89 that summer.

3. 1993 – Charleston, South Carolina

12-year-old Sarah Knott and 13-year-old Margaret Johnson had their stand shut down by Charleston officers because they didn’t have a peddler’s license. However, after a public outcry, City Hall and Police Major Charles Wiley offered the girls a heartfelt apology. Wiley even did one better – he asked the girls to set up shop outside the police station instead.

4. 2010 – Portland, Oregon

On the last Thursday of every month, Alberta Street in Portland comes alive for a loosely organized, semi-impromptu art festival where artists, musicians, and food carts pack the block and celebrate the city’s creative vibe. It was at one of these street fairs in July 2010 that 7-year-old Julie Murphy and her mom set up a lemonade stand, where they were selling drinks for 50 cents each.

However, about 20 minutes after opening for business, a county health inspector asked to see her temporary restaurant permit, a license that carries a $120 fee that little Julie had obviously not obtained. Without the permit, Julie and her mom had to stop selling lemonade or face a $500 fine. Owners at surrounding booths suggested Julie write “Free” on the sign and put out a tip jar, but that wasn’t enough for the inspectors. An argument ensued between the other booths and the inspectors, and Julie and her mom went home in tears.

After an online campaign from Oregonians, the national media picked up on the story and Julie suddenly became a pint-sized symbol of the plight of the small business owner. But the situation fizzled after Jeff Cogen, the Multnomah County chairman, called Julie and Maria to apologize. He admitted the health inspectors were doing their jobs, but might have overstepped their bounds, saying, “a 7-year-old selling lemonade isn’t the same as a grown-up selling burritos out of a cart.”

5. 2011 – Midway, Georgia

Image credit: Jekyll Island

It’s notoriously hot in Georgia during the summer, so Kasity Dixon, 14, Tiffany Cassin, 12, and Skylar Roberts, 10, decided to open a lemonade stand in Midway to make enough money for the trio to visit the Summer Waves Water Park on nearby Jekyll Island. They had been open for about a day and business was good, including a couple of cups purchased by two local police officers. Later, a different police officer came by and told the girls they had to close the stand because they didn’t have a business license, a peddler’s permit, or a food permit, all of which would have cost them $50 a day to obtain for temporary use or $180 for the year. Despite national media attention and complaints from residents, the city wouldn't budge.

The City of Midway might not have been so kind to the girls, but luckily Steve Sharpe, the general manager of Summer Waves, had a bigger heart. After he heard about the girls, now dubbed “The Midway Lemonade Girls,” Sharpe not only invited them to spend a day at the park free of charge, but he also gave them the opportunity to sell lemonade for two hours in a stand that his staff built especially for them. The girls gave a portion of their proceeds to a local animal shelter and had a great time on the water slides.

6. 2011 – Appleton, Wisconsin

Every year, the city of Appleton hosts the Old Car Show, which draws in thousands of visitors. For the past seven years, the young Coenen sisters had been running a lemonade and cookie stand to serve people as they made their way to the show. That is until the city passed an ordinance the month before that banned vendors selling food and drink within a two-block radius of the event. The ordinance was put in place to protect the non-profit groups running concessions at the event itself, but it also meant the Coenens would have to close up shop. In order to deplete their stock, the girls put a sign out front that read, “The City Shut Us Down” and started giving away food and drinks with a tip jar accepting donations.

Neighbors, upset by the ban, complained to city hall, where officials started looking for a workaround to the situation. However, they soon realized the workaround was already there in the code itself. The ordinance only banned licensed vendors from selling near the event, but you don’t need a license to run a lemonade stand in Wisconsin. The police apologized to the family and the officers have received additional training on how to properly enforce the code from now on.

Cookies, Too!

2011 – Savannah, Georgia

It's not just lemonade stands that are under fire. For decades, the Girl Scouts of Savannah have sold the organization's cookies on the sidewalk in front of the home of Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts in 1912. But peddling on a public sidewalk in Savannah is a violation of a city ordinance, and the city was forced to stop the sales after they received an anonymous complaint. The action sparked interest from around the world, with reporters calling city hall from as far away as Australia and New Zealand to interview city employees.

Over the next few days, zoning officials and residents searched for a loophole that would allow the girls to continue the long-standing tradition, but it wasn't looking good. Then, Michael Gaster, a former candidate for state legislator, found the loophole – Section 6-1615 – which endowed the city manager with the power to give written permission to allow sidewalk sales. City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney agreed, as long as the girls applied for a business tax certificate and did their best to keep the sidewalk clear. With the proper paperwork filed, the girls were back in business a few days later.

2011 – Hazelwood, Missouri

In March 2011, Caitlin and Abigail Mills were told by Hazelwood police that they couldn't sell Girl Scout Cookies in their own driveway. Although city officials had known for seven years that the girls were violating an ordinance banning the sale of items from a residential property, they had turned a blind eye. But when an anonymous neighbor called to complain about dogs barking at customers picking up their cookies, police decided they could no longer ignore the violation. The sisters estimate they missed out on about $1,200 in sales as a result of the shutdown.

Unhappy with the ban, the Mills, along with pro bono help from the Freedom Center of Missouri, have filed suit against the City of Hazelwood, claiming their constitutional rights are being limited by the city's ordinance. In August, a St. Louis County judge threw the case out, saying the girls needed to try to resolve the matter through zoning variances before bringing the case to court. However, that judgment was overruled in March of this year, by a judge who feels that it’s not the place of the Hazelwood city council to decide on constitutional issues. The Mills sisters will get their date in court, and some legal analysts are saying the outcome of the case could set a precedent that would finally declare a winner in the war on lemonade stands.
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For more stories like these, check out this Google Map of Local Restrictions on Kid-Run Concession Stands. Did you have a lemonade stand as a kid? Tell us about your entrepreneurial adventures in the comments.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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