Stapleton, CO – People were outraged after they heard that police shut down a kids’ lemonade stand on Memorial Day in Colorado, but initial reports about the incident left out some important details.
The media broadly reported that a disgruntled neighbor had alerted police that the children were operating a business without a permit in a park across the street from their home, and officers showed up and put them out of business.
“The police officers, they couldn’t have been nicer, but someone complained about us,” the children’s mother, Jennifer Knowles, told KCNC. “It makes me sad that someone would do that.”
Knowles said she had fond memories of making and selling lemonade at her own stand in the summer as a child, and that she wanted to expose her sons, ages 2, 4, and 6, to the same life lessons.
“I want to teach my kids about being an entrepreneur and having your own business,” she told KCNC. “My 6-year-old got his little toy cash register out…and he was learning how to interact with customers and about customer service.”
But just 30 minutes after their stand opened, someone called the police to report that the children were operating a business without a permit.
“The police officers came over and they said that because my boys and I did not have permits for a lemonade stand they shut us down and we had to stop immediately,” Knowles told KCNC. “My boys were crushed. They were devastated.”
What Knowles failed to mention to reporters initially was the fact that the “park” across the street where she chose to set up her small children’s lemonade stand was actually Coors Field, a giant stadium which was hosting the Denver Arts Festival, according to The Washington Examiner.
And the “neighbor” who complained to the authorities about the competing lemonade stand was a beverage vendor who had an actual permit to sell lemonade at the event, and was losing business, The Washington Examiner reported.
The kids were selling their lemonade two for a dollar, while the commercial vendor who had paid for his permit to be there was charging $7 a glass, KCNC reported.
“We had never thought that the other lemonade vendor could feel threatened by our little kid lemonade stand,” Knowles told KCNC. “I can understand why someone would get upset.”
“They got a lot of people coming and praising the boys and telling them that they were doing a great job,” Knowles said. “That was so good for my boys to hear and for them to interact with people they’ve never met before in a business way.”
Communications Program Manager Alexandra Foster said that the department doesn’t generally enforce permit rules in cases of child entrepreneurship unless they receive a complaint.
“If our inspectors go to a lemonade stand, it means we’ve received a complaint, and generally complaints stem from high levels of activity or noise that disrupt neighbors,” Foster told KCNC. “So generally, as long as the impact is minimal, we’re happy to let kids have fun in the summer.”
Knowles told KCNC that the boys earned $200 before police shut them down, and that they had planned to give their proceeds to a charity called Compassion International. The $125 permit she failed to purchase would have cut their profits by more than half.
“In hindsight we would have never set up where we did, when we did, and we would have just done it another time. Lesson learned,” she said.
According to KRDO, when Compassion International in Colorado Springs learned about the boys’ thwarted business venture, they invited them to come open a new lemonade stand at their property.
The kids’ Colorado Springs stand will be open on Thursday, from noon until 2 p.m.