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Soured by Denver lemonade stand incident, Colorado could allow kid businesses to operate permit-free

Senate Bill 103 would allow anyone under 18 years old to operate a business for up to 84 days without needing a permit and free from local regulations

Jennifer Knowles' three sons -- from left, Jonathan, William and Ben -- at their lemonade stand that was shut down by Denver police over Memorial Day Weekend 2018. (Provided by Jennifer Knowles)
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Children’s lemonade stands in Colorado could soon be spared from being soured by local regulations.

A bill inspired by three young Denver boys whose lemonade stand was shut down by police last summer for lacking a permit has been introduced in the Colorado Senate.

It would allow anyone under the age of 18 to operate a business for up to 84 days without a permit and free from any other local regulation that could hinder their entrepreneurship. That means while the measure was inspired by a shuttered lemonade stand, it actually could open the door to all kinds of small businesses run by young people.

Senate Bill 103, introduced Thursday, is backed by groups promoting childhood entrepreneurs and even the National Federation of Independent Business.

The Denver case that inspired the legislation drew international attention — and outrage. Jennifer Knowles’ sons — then ages 2,4 and 6 — simply wanted to use a sunny day in the city’s Stapleton neighborhood over Memorial Day Weekend to raise money for people less fortunate when law enforcement ended their fun.

Since then, Knowles’ says she has “communicated with some families across the country who have run into similar issues as we have here in Colorado.” She’s even adpoted a social media persona — lemonadestandmama — to lead the charge for loosening regulations around kids’ businesses.

“There is so much division in our country today,” she said. “I am happy to be part of something that we can all support — supporting kids’ entrepreneurship.”

Denver City Council already addressed the outrage by passing an ordinance legalizing children’s businesses. The statewide bill is modeled after that move.

Jennifer Knowles’ three son — from left: William, Jonathan and Ben — handed out lemonade to Denver City Council members last week as the panel passed an ordinance allowing kids’ businesses without permits. (Provided by Jennifer Knowles) (Provided by Jennifer Knowles)

The bill has broad bipartisan support in the legislature. Sen. Angela Williams, a Denver Democrat whose district includes Stapleton, is leading the push for the measure and hopes to use it as part of broader efforts to drum up support for child entrepreneurs.

There are plans for a children’s vendor fair in the Capitol surrounding the bill’s first hearing, which will likely be sometime next month.

“This is not a business that is operating day-to-day, 365 days a year,” Williams said. “I believe that we need to be encouraging kid entrepreneurship and not discouraging it. I think this bill will allow more kids to be creative and innovative in their businesses.”

As for the Knowles’ and her family? Her oldest son will be testifying on the bill’s behalf when it reaches a committee hearing.

If you were wondering, the boys have had a few more lemonade stands since their story went viral over the summer.

“And they are looking forward to many more,” Knowles said.

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