Let them sell lemonade: Gov. Jared Polis signs bill that ends bureaucracy for Colorado’s child-owned businesses

Nic Garcia | Denver Post

Colorado’s youngest entrepreneurs no longer have to worry about the heavy hand of government and a dizzying amount of bureaucracy getting in the way of their plans to bring lemonade to the masses this summer.

Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Monday a bill that prohibits local governments from requiring individuals under the age of 18 to obtain business licenses in order to operate many small and “occasional” businesses such as lemonade stands.

The bipartisan bill, sponsored by state Sens. Angela Williams and Jack Tate and Reps. James Coleman and Terri Carve, was inspired by an incident in Denver: Ben Guffey, 7, and his brothers William, 5, and Jonathan, 3, had their lemonade stand shut down Memorial Day weekend last year.

The boys’ mom, Jennifer Knowles, said her family was excited to turn their time as unsuspecting outlaws into something positive.

“We’ve made a difference,” she said. “We took something sour that happened to us and we made a great change that impacts not only our community but our entire state.”

The Stapleton family’s run-in with authorities made national headlines. And while the Denver City Council promptly reversed course to make lemonade stands legal, state lawmakers saw that more needed to be done.

“I’m excited for the kids. I’m excited they can get out and be entrepreneurs and be creative and be innovative,” Williams said in an interview.

It’s unclear how many other cities and counties have similar ordinances, however, no other incidents have been reported. A representative for the Colorado Municipal League said local governments likely will need to make small changes to their codes. And local governments do retain some authority to regulate where the stands can be located.

During the ceremony, Polis, who ran a tomato stand as a child, said he hopes the bill inspires more kids to enter the marketplace.

As for Ben and his brothers, they’ll have their lemonade stand up soon, he said. And there are big plans for expansion. Along with lemonade, he’ll sell paper airplanes, gemstones and rocks that have been “crushed by other rocks.”

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