Crime

Texas Police Officers Shut Down Girls' Lemonade Stand Because They Didn't Have A Permit

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When life gives you lemons -- quick, hide them from the cops!

Police in Overton, Texas, shut down a lemonade stand on Monday, because the two young girls running it lacked a permit.

Andria Green, 8, and her sister Zoey, 7, told KLTV they hoped to raise $105 so they could take their dad to a nearby waterpark for Father's Day. Before the cops showed up, they were well on their way to meeting their goal, having raised more than $25 in about an hour by selling lemonade for 50 cents a cup and kettle corn for a dollar.

That's when a code enforcement officer and the chief of police arrived and asked to see their "Peddler's Permit," the girls' mother, Sandi Evans, told the station. The permit costs $150.

"What's going on?" Evans, clearly confused, can be heard asking off-camera. One of the officers responds with a question of her own: "Did you get a permit from the city to sell this?"

"I didn't know we had to," Evans replies. "Really, we have to have a permit?"

"Yes ma'am," the officer says.

"For a lemonade stand? I had no clue. Okay," Evans continues. "Can I run down there and get one real quick?"

The other officer chimes in, appearing to sympathize with the mother. "We just have to enforce 'em," he says, referring to the laws. "We don't write 'em."

"It's illegal to sell lemonade without a permit," Overton Police Department Chief Clyde Carter confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday. "But we didn't tell them to shut down, we just asked them to get a permit."

Evans proceeded to City Hall in search of a permit, where workers were kind enough to waive the $150 permit fee, but told her the girls still needed to be licensed by the Rusk County Health Department. At that point, they "just decided to stop technically selling the lemonade," Evans told ABC, and "ask for donations instead" -- a legal loophole that put them on the right side of the law.

Texas state law does indeed prohibit selling lemonade without the proper permit, Overton City Manager Charles Cunningham told the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

"We are not out looking for people selling lemonade," Cunningham said, "but in this case, the police chief was driving around and saw them in the road and stopped due to safety concerns."

The city manager pointed a finger at the Texas Cottage Food Laws, which regulate what people can and cannot sell from their home kitchens. But advocates for the cottage food laws have been quick to hit back, arguing that the "Baker's Bill," which passed in 2013 as an adjustment to the cottage food legislation, legalizes the sale of certain food items, but has nothing to do with lemonade. Unlike the baked goods and other foods protected by the bill, lemonade is considered risky because it can spoil without constant refrigeration.

“This law covers only the foods listed, and it does not include beverages,” Kelley Masters, who marshaled support to pass the Baker's Bill, notes on her website. “Lemonade would fall outside the cottage food 'umbrella' and would still be governed by your local health department and the Texas Food Establishment Rules. It's important to note that lemonade stands have been 'illegal' for decades and that the Cottage Food Law did not change this.”

As for the girls, after news of the shutdown spread, the water park opted to give the family complimentary tickets. Even though they're now rolling in business -- many have pledged to visit and "donate" when the stand re-opens on Saturday -- the girls plan to give the proceeds to a scholarship fund.

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