Community Unity

Lemon Law

By Debra Phillips

It's the same old story: Homebased entrepreneur sets up shop, runs afoul of local authorities and gets shut down. Nothing new here, right? Only this time--in a twist worthy of a "Saturday Night Live" skit--the entrepreneur in question is no misguided adult, but rather a teenager with a lemonade stand.

We kid you not. Fifteen-year-old Nathan Brittingham of Dale, Indiana, didn't count on mixing up anything other than cool refreshments when he opened for business last summer. Yet--and this is where fact becomes stranger than fiction--the local health department soon put the squeeze on the lemonade purveyor. (Local authorities could not be reached for comment.)

"I got this letter in the mail that said he had to cease operation immediately," recalls Nathan's mother, Pat, who had purchased a peddler's permit for her son. "I couldn't believe it. It was stupid." Echoes Nathan, "I was mad."

As Pat tells it, Nathan's stand--which was outfitted with flashing lights and music to boot--was forced to close because of its lack of restroom facilities. "[I was told that Nathan] had been turned in by another food establishment owner," Pat says.

What? So much of the Brittinghams' brush with bureaucracy borders on the ridiculous that it's no surprise the case has generated considerable attention. One local radio station even printed T-shirts as a show of support for the kid with indisputably great-tasting lemonade.

Will this very same lemonade be sold again this summer? When asked whether he intends to reopen for business--even if it's to accept "donations" for lemonade in lieu of actual sales--Nathan merely responds, "Maybe." Still, it must be hard not to let this experience leave a bitter taste in their mouths. "Kids all over have lemonade stands," Pat points out. "What is this world coming to?"

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