BALLSTON SPA — A state health inspector shut down a 7-year-old boy’s lemonade stand after vendors at the nearby Saratoga County Fair complained that he appeared to be running a professional operation that competed with their stands, a state official said Monday.
Just a day after the state issued an apology to Brendan Mulvaney, the state Health Department on Monday said he’ll need a permit if he reopens his stand.
DOH spokesman Gary Holmes said that one of the department’s inspectors closed down the stand at the entrance of the Saratoga County Fair after four separate vendors complained about it.
Holmes said the vendors, whom he did not know, reported Mulvaney’s stand, asking if he had a permit. When Sean Mulvaney said his son’s stand didn’t have a permit, the inspector, who Holmes wouldn’t name, shut it down.
“In the opinion of the inspector, the lemonade stand was in line with vendors inside the fair. She did not see any child,” Holmes said. “We don’t want to kill the dreams of a little boy, but for safety, they need a permit. We will help them get the permits.”
Reached Monday, Sean Mulvaney said he believes the state is trying to cover for its employee.
“Yesterday, they issue an apology and today I need a permit,” the father said. “This makes no sense. My child is 7-years-old, he’s all over the paper with a lemonade stand, you saw him in front of the sign and they are trying to say it was my stand. Some higher up must have told them to do this so they don’t fire the employee.”
Brendan was selling premixed lemonade for 75 cents. Sean Mulvaney said that he will have to charge fair prices with a permit. A cup of fresh-squeezed lemonade sells for about $7.
DOH says a temporary food permit, which is what Brendan would need, is $30 and is good for a year. The DOH website noted that a temporary food establishment is “a place where food is prepared or handled and served to the public, with or without charge, and which operates at a fixed location in conjunction with a single event or celebration of not more than 14 consecutive days duration.”
Holmes said lemonade, soda and Sno-cones fall under that category.
The Saratoga County Fair closed for the year on Sunday. Fair spokeswoman Deb Czech would not comment saying “the fair does not comment on private business matters that occur outside the fairgrounds.”
On Sunday, the boy told the Times Union he saw the inspector and she was yelling at his parents.
“They are trying to say my son is a liar?,” Mulvaney asked. “I want my son to follow his dream. If he needs a permit, we will get one for him.”
After the story broke, state Senator James Tedisco visited the boy at his stand and called for the state to keep its nose out of a little boy’s business.
“When I was a kid, state bureaucrats didn’t go around shutting down lemonade stands and threatening children and families with fines,” Tedisco said on Sunday. “These kids are trying to give people sweet lemonade and learn some important business skills but the overzealous state bureaucrats in the administration just keep giving taxpayers lemons.”
Tedisco also said he will demand that DOH pays the child lost profits.
Holmes said he is not trying to pick a fight with the family, but felt that the inspector was doing her job.
“We have zero interest in shutting down a boy’s lemonade stand or regulating lemonade stands,” Holmes said. “We also don’t want to pick a fight with the family. We want to put all the vendors on a level playing field.”