Kevin Duchschere, Star Tribune
Published August 29, 2003 POPS29
Mikaela Ziegler, 7, and her 4-year-old sister, Annika, were selling refreshments Wednesday afternoon near the State Fairgrounds when a woman approached them. But she wasn't there to buy.
"She said, 'You can't sell pop unless you have a license,' " Mikaela said.
That's how it came to be that an inspector with St. Paul's Office of License, Inspections and Environmental Protection shut down Mikaela and Annika's pop stand.
Their outraged father, Dr. Richard Ziegler, called City Hall for an explanation. He was told that St. Paul is cracking down on unauthorized merchants and that his daughters would be free to hawk their beverages once they obtained a $60 license.
"Is there anything sacred anymore?" he asked Thursday. "We're not running a business here. This is fun and games for kids. I think [Mikaela's] netted, after paying me, a whole $13.
But Licensing Director Janeen Rosas said Mikaela was violating St. Paul Legislative Code Chapter 331A.04(d)(24), which requires a license for "A temporary establishment where food sales shall be restricted to prepackaged nonpotentially hazardous foods or canned or bottled nonalcoholic beverages; operating no more than fourteen (14) days annually at any one location."
Rosas said the city has received more complaints than ever this year about sellers at the fair, although she said no one had registered a gripe about the enterprising Ziegler sisters.
"If someone were to get ill from one of these products, with a license we're more able to track them back," she said. "And at the fair it's an equity issue. Allowing some people to sell without licenses gives them an unfair advantage over others."
In fact, any lemonade stand in St. Paul must be licensed to operate, Rosas said. Not that the licensing department is out randomly patrolling for juvenile scofflaws.
"But if we get a complaint, an inspector would go out and respond to that kind of call," she said.
In June, police in Naples, Fla., responded to a neighbor's complaint by closing the lemonade stand of a 6-year-old girl who didn't have a permit. After fielding indignant phone calls from around the country, embarrassed city officials waived the $35 permit fee and allowed her to reopen. The story won national attention.
Before she was shut down at her stand on Como Av. a block or two from the fairgrounds, Mikaela had been in business for four days, offering passersby an assortment of packaged lemonade, orange juice, water and pop. What the city did made her sad. And mad.
"I don't think that was right," she said, "Cause you should be able to just sell stuff without having something that you don't know you're supposed to be having."
Kevin Duchschere is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Think of it as socialism in action.