When Midway mother Amy Roberts learned that her daughters wanted to set up a lemonade stand in their front yard last week, she couldn’t help but take a quick trip down memory lane.
“I did it when I was a kid,” she said. “They made the lemonade themselves. They bought their own stuff with their allowance money.”
But the nostalgia ended last Wednesday afternoon when an unidentified Midway Police Department officer, accompanied by Police Chief Kelli Morningstar, told the girls they no longer were allowed to sell their lemonade, she said.
It all began when 10-year-old Skylar Roberts wanted to raise money for a trip to Splash in the Boro Waterpark in Statesboro. She enlisted the help of her sister, Kasity Dixon, 14, to run the stand.
“Everyone in the neighborhood thought it was absolutely adorable. The girls at the bank were getting change and asked what time they should come by,” Amy Roberts said. “They were even announcing it on the IGA intercom that my kids were selling lemonade.”
The girls made $30 when they were open for business the afternoon of June 28 — and they even sold lemonade to two policemen in a marked Midway Police car, Amy Roberts said.
The girls, excited about their previous day’s earnings, decided to set up at about 2 p.m. June 29.
According to Amy Roberts, who said she heard the scene unfold from inside her home, this reportedly is what happened: Sometime around 4 p.m., Morningstar, who was in the passenger side of a squad car that a male officer was driving, stopped as the cruiser entered the subdivision and told the girls they were not allowed to have their sign posted. Some time passed, Roberts said, and as the officers exited the subdivision, they stopped again.
“I heard (the male officer) yell at them and say, ‘Girls! This is your last warning — you can’t sell it at all,’” Amy Roberts said. When she heard the exchange, she told her daughters, who were shaken by the scolding, to clean up the stand.
In a phone interview with the Courier, Morningstar said that while entering the subdivision, the male officer, a rookie in training, told the girls they were not allowed to sell the lemonade. When the officers passed by on the way out of the development, they saw that the girls had not removed the stand.
“They were told they could not sell their lemonade,” she said, adding that she did not see the girl’s mother accompanying them. “We do have several guidelines in place, regardless of who you are or your age.”
Morningstar said she simply was enforcing the law and would treat any vendor — including a roadside fruit vendor — the same way.
“You know, we don’t write the laws — we just enforce them,” she said. “Anytime there’s food or beverage or anything sold, it has to meet specific guidelines.”
Morningstar said she was not aware that some of her officers reportedly had purchased lemonade from the stand the day before, and she said she does not know why they did not tell the girls to take down the stand then, she said.
Now, the girls’ parents are trying to find out what their children were doing wrong and how they can continue their enterprise within the bounds of the law.
“I don’t want them disobeying the law,” Amy Roberts said.
While on his way home that evening, Skylar’s father, Jim Roberts, stopped to ask city officials what the girls had done wrong. Officials told him they were breaking a city ordinance that prohibits unlicensed peddling.
“Anytime you make money, you’re supposed to get a business license,” Liberty County Zoning Administrator Gabriele Hartage said. “They have an option to get a transient merchant license or a peddler’s license.”
Commercial sales at the stand’s location also are prohibited because it is zoned as agricultural-residential, she added.
Hartage said that her office was aware of the situation but has not taken any disciplinary action against the children.
The licenses are created to protect local business owners from traveling vendors, she said.
Midway city clerk Lynette Cook-Osborne said transient merchant licenses for this type of business cost $50 per day and that occupational licenses for businesses with one to five employees cost $100 per year.
Because minors cannot uphold a legal contract, the girls’ parents would have to seek a license on their behalf, Cook-Osborne said.
Another possible reason for the police action is that anyone who sells consumable products is subject to licensing through the county health department, Hartage said.
Health department spokeswoman Sally Silbermann, whose office has not been directly involved with this incident, said the guideline comes from the 152-page state-issued Food Service Rules.
“It is our job to make sure that anyone selling food items — and lemonade is considered food — is taking the proper steps to avoid contamination,” she said.
The law, which requires applicants to file their permit requests 10 days before they plan to begin vending, encompasses all types of food service, including temporary vendors. A temporary permit is $80.
There are select exemptions for short-term tax-exempt operations, such as fairs and festivals.
Mary Herring, administrative assistant with Liberty County Building and Licensing, said the issue is not likely to be on her department’s radar.
“To me, that’s just kids more or less playing, and it’s only temporary,” she said. “I would think the law-enforcement officers would have bigger fish to fry.”