Call The Cops! Did Van Jones’ Son Open an ‘Illegal’ Lemonade Stand?


It has recently come to our attention that we here at the Blaze may have vastly underestimated a former member of Barrack Obama’s cabinet.  It all started Sunday, when the blog SooperMexican noticed a congratulatory tweet coming from the former Obama Green Energy Czar’s account. Seems that Van Jones was a “proud papa” boasting about the success of his son’s Lemonade stand:

We here at the Blaze have consistently been in support of the lemonade stands and it’s correlation to the budding entrepreneurial spirit in this country.  We applaud Young Jones for his hard work and charity and hope that the principles of the free market will provide a foundation for future success.

However, this story seemed slightly too good to be true.

In the last few years, a disheartening phenomenon has begun to occur all over the country. Kids on street-corners have been told to shut down their lemonade stands and bake sales as a function of overbearing regulation.  The health, safety and environmental ordinances for local business today make it impossible for many communities to allow unlicensed sweets to be sold from cardboard boxes by children.

On July 16th 2010, the cops shut down two children selling unlicensed lemonade and brownies during a San Francisco open-air symphony.  The San Francisco Police spokesman cited the strict city ordinances to justify the shutdown and noted that all SF food sellers must obtain city permits due to health concerns.

The police spokesperson quipped in a press conference, “Just because they’re kids they shouldn’t get a free pass, you know?”

In other places around the country, like in Montgomery County, Md, not only were the stands shut own but the parents were slapped with fines of $500 a piece for letting their children have an unlicensed entrepreneurial experience.

The punctuated irony is that Van Jones is a true believer in these types of health and environmental regulations.  He advocates them all over the country and has even wrote a bestselling book on the topic.

Jones lives with his family in Los Angeles and are proud residents of that community.  While we do not know the exact street-corner that Young Jones made his lemonade profit, it did cross our mind that he may have been in violation of a few LA ordinances, while doing it.

After a bit of Blaze research, our worst fears were confirmed. If young Jones’s entrepreneurial activity did take place in Los Angeles it would have been in direct violation of dozens of strict environmental, health and tax rules laid out by the LA Department of Public Works.  Jones, the ardent advocate of government economic intervention, should pay closer attention to the regulations of his own community.

Here is a short list of the laws that young Jones may have been in violation of according to city code:


  •  These Licenses require photographs, fingerprints, documents, proof of insurance, articles of incorporation and any partnership documents for the cardboard lemonade stand
  • The licenses must be applied for in person during limited hours at a limited number of locations around the county (don’t bother calling, or applying online since both options will simply tell you to apply in person)
  • State law requires that within 30 days of filing, the registrant must publish a statement in a newspaper in the county in which the business is located to announce their arrival to the community.  The ads are at the business’s expense and must run once a week for four successive weeks
  • The lemonade stand must create a fictitious business name filing documents, which is a 6 page document that requires approval from the Secretary of the State of California

Health & Sanitation

  • Must complete a seven page Health Compliance Form and Certificate of Sanitation where the lemonade stand must agree to allow its workers access to Heath Care and the ability to form a Union as well as dispose of waste in an “environmentally compliant”
  • If you plan on using real lemons, A food preparation room must be provided for fruit-cutting and food-condiments preparation. The food preparation shall include a 3-compartment sink with dual drain boards (18 inch by 18 inch and 12 deep), hand sink, 18 inch prep sink and sufficient food preparation tables and adequate amount of refrigeration space.
  • All areas of the vehicle where unpackaged food or beverages are displayed for sale shall have tight fitting doors which, when closed, completely enclose the food compartments and shall be maintained clean.
  • Lemonade stand must provide potable water and restrooms for its employees at all times.  These facilities must be less than 200 ft away from the lemonade stand
  • The lemonade stand must comply with regular random inspection from City Health officials, while paying fees for these visits

Zoning & Fire Inspection

  • The stand must have mandatory fire and zoning  inspections by the city to account for the structural viability of the cardboard lemonade stand
  • If you move the Lemonade stand you will have to re-apply to the zoning commission

Sales Tax


  • For all licenses and inspections the fees total, the initial start-up cost to young Jones will be $1,221.24
  • This will be thousands more for multiple locations or if he wishes to remodel
  • All fees are subject to annual renewal

Operating without Llicense — deemed misdemeanor — Penalty

  • A violation of Section 7.04.020 is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, or imprisonment in the County Jail for a period not exceeding six months, or both. Such fine shall not be more than $1,000.00, and shall
  • A. For the first violation, not be less than $500.00; and
  • B. For the second and any subsequent violation, be $1000.00. (Ord. 93-0061U § 2, 1993: Ord. 12335 § 2 (part), 1981: Ord. 5860 Ch. 1 Art. 1 § 7.1, 1951.)

Feeding Raccoons or Bears 

The Medallion 
  • After compliance with all the fees and regulations of LA County you are bequeathed three medallions that certify your licensing with the state, at least for that year

These regulations apply for any mobile operation providing food or drink for public consumption and apply even if the operation is located on private property.

To our knowledge, young Jones was able to make a tax-free, unlicensed profit of $11 without any run-ins from the authorities.  But he may have just been lucky this time.  The city administrators behind these laws are dead serious.

The Blaze contacted the San Fran Department of Public Works to see just how illegal a child selling lemonade might be in well-regulated California.  Spokesperson Lynn Fong responded directly to questions concerning the legality of a lemonade stand:

“It would be illegal to sell lemonade and cookies on a public street corner in San Francisco without an approved permit” Fong noted, adding “all vendors selling food in the public rights-of-way are required to first obtain a Mobile Food permit” from the city government.

Since Van Jones has headquartered his regulation advocacy group in San Francisco, this might be a a fair warning against a company bake sale.

We contacted the Department of Public Works in Los Angeles multiple times but were regularly put on hold for extended periods of time and disconnected.  They have yet to give the Blaze an official response to the legality of lemonade but their response could be inferred, since San Francisco vendors are held to the same regulation compliance as those in Los Angeles.

It must be a tough decision between comforting statist regulations and the happiness of your child.  We at the Blaze continue to support the entrepreneurial spirit of young Jones.  In fact, we hope that he picks up a copy of Hayek  and has many bake sales into the future.

The Blaze’s David Sharette Contributed to this report