Ed Driscoll

Bringing New Meaning To The Phrase "Lemon Law"

In the midst of a horrendous recession, double-digit unemployment, and a net population outflow last year, California cities are prepared to do everything they can to jumpstart the state’s floundering economy:

Eight-year-old Daniela Earnest has made lemonade out of lemons in more ways than one this week.

Hoping to raise money for a family trip to Disneyland, the Tulare girl opened a lemonade stand Monday. But because Daniela didn’t have a business license, the city of Tulare shut it down the same day.

From that came a radio station’s offer of Disneyland tickets to Daniela’s family — in exchange for 30 cups of lemonade — and an appearance in front of the Tulare City Council on Tuesday night that will likely lead to a compromise allowing her lemonade stand and other pint-sized business ventures to operate legally.

The story began Monday morning when Daniela and her stepmother, Marisa Earnest, set up shop at Cartmill Avenue and Hillman Street in north Tulare. The lemonade was freshly squeezed and priced at $2 for a 32-ounce plastic cup.

Richard Garcia, a Tulare code enforcement officer, happened to be at the same intersection to remove illegal signs left behind by someone selling tetherball poles.

Garcia told Daniela and her stepmother that their lemonade stand — on the northwest corner of the busy intersection — was not safe, and also that they needed a business license to sell lemonade.

He helped the pair load their ice chest and equipment into their car and then called city planners to find out where they could relocate.

“He wasn’t out there on lemonade patrol,” said Frank Furtaw, Tulare’s code enforcement manager. Garcia was merely applying the city’s code enforcement laws equitably, Furtaw said.

Tulare officials said they cannot recall ever shutting down a lemonade stand before this week. But it’s not altogether uncommon. Authorities across the nation have done the same. And in Fresno, a Huntington Boulevard shaved ice machine run by a resident mostly so neighborhood kids could get a sno-cone on hot days was shut down by a Fresno code enforcer in June 2008.

Ed Earnest, Daniela’s father, said Garcia got “a bad rap” from critics about his enforcement actions. “He was just doing his job,” Earnest said.

Nonetheless, news that the city had put the squeeze on a young girl’s lemonade stand prompted public outcry.

As well it should. Steve Bartin of Newsalert adds, “The government that’s big enough to give you free health care is big enough to tell you whether you can have a lemonade stand.”

Here’s to you, mister code enforcement officer of genius! I’ve always assumed that California cities could always use such laws to shut down or at least control panhandlers, homeless or otherwise, if they wanted to. But no, naturally they’d rather use such laws to harass eight-year-old girls.