Some Alabama Teens Must Obtain a Costly Business License if They Want to Mow Lawns

When I was a teen, the way I made a fair bit of my spending money was cutting grass. I’d load my lawn mower up in the back of my dad’s car and we’d go to folks’ homes and I’d get to work. It was hot work, but it put some money in my pocket at a point in my life when I couldn’t get a part-time job at a fast food place or anything like that.

My father went even further. As a pastor’s son, money was always tight and Dad always had expensive tastes. He worked his butt off during the summer to earn money for his school clothes, which were far nicer than what his folks could really afford to buy for him.

Cutting grass during the summer is a tradition, a rite of passage for American kids. Kind of like the lemonade stand.

Also like the lemonade stand, it’s under attack by statists.

Teens in Gardendale are in for a rude awakening this summer when it comes to cutting grass. According to the city’s ordinance, you must have a business license.

Teenagers have been threatened by officials and other lawn services to show their city issued license before cutting a person’s lawn for extra summer cash.


“One of the men that cuts several yards made a remark to one of our neighbors, ‘that if he saw her cutting grass again that he was going to call Gardendale because she didn’t have a business license,” said Campbell.

“He’s coming after a kid when a kid is at least trying to do work. There’s kids at home on iPads and electronics and not wanting to go outside,” said Parris.

The mayor has said that he’s in favor of something like a license for the summer specifically for young people, which is a decent enough move except for one thing: Why should the government care at all?

Like so many cases where government officials have cracked down on kids’ lemonade stands, this is nothing more than a regulatory solution looking for a problem.

Teens and pre-teens taking the family lawnmower door-to-door trying to drum up business is a time-honored tradition, a way to instill the value of hard work in people who are too young for the working world, but still impressionable enough to actually grasp the lesson. Requiring a license, even a temporary one, merely teaches kids that government is really only good for getting in a person’s way because they didn’t get permission to work for themselves first.

And let’s be honest. Any full-time lawn person trying to use licensing requirement to punish kids who are trying to work is a poor example of humanity, much less adulthood. That’s rent-seeking behavior at its most petty. The idea of using the hammer of government against children simply because they didn’t get permission first? Reprehensible.

We in the South often like to think of ourselves as immune to this kind of thinking, both the rent-seeking and the licensing requirements, but we’re not. Not by a longshot.