6 Illicit Lemonade Stands Towns Had to Shut Down

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.

Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

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: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
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: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"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

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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