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Is it legal to run a lemonade stand without a permit in California? Your question answered

Sacramento Bee

As California finally begins to shed its chilly temperatures, lemonade stands can be an option for your kid to pocket some cash in time for summer festivities.

Depending on which state you live in, permits are required to operate a lemonade stand. But what about California?

Last week, a reader pinged The Sacramento Bee’s service journalism team, which focuses on community-driven questions, to ask about the laws surrounding lemonade stands in the Golden State.

For a previous story, we consulted the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration’s Office of Public Affairs to answer whether a permit is required. Here’s what we found:

Editor’s note: Information in this story was originally published in August 2023. It has been updated for style and clarity.

Is a permit required to operate a lemonade stand in California?


According to a 2023 email from the California Department of Tax and Administration Office of Public Affairs, a child can legally run a lemonade stand without a seller’s permit.

“Generally, a person selling cold food to go is not required to obtain a seller’s permit,” the state tax department added.

Cups of lemonade, homemade or store-bought, sold from a temporary stand are labeled as to-go food sales, according to the state tax department’s dining and beverage industry rules.

The money you and your child make from the stand is not taxable when drinks are sold à la carte, meaning a permit is not required.

The same rule applies to fruity drinks, milk and iced tea.

Just be sure your stand is not operating in a storefront and is up for less than 90 days, the state tax department stated. Drinks should be served cold without carbonation.

You must have a permit to sell alcoholic and carbonated beverages, including sparking water and soda.

What do you want to know about life in Sacramento? Ask our service journalism team your top-of-mind questions in the module below or email

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