Girl puts up lemonade stand, told to pay for business license

Autumn Thomasson put up a lemonade stand in June, to raise money for a bicycle. In October, she received a notice that she needed to pay for a business license. (Courtesy of Gabby Dehaas)

The city of Porterville is now apologizing to a 5-year-old girl after her family received a letter saying she needs a business license.

Autumn Thomasson put up a lemonade stand in June.

"She wanted to buy a bike to ride around her new neighborhood,” says Gabby Dehaas, Autumn’s mother.

The two had just moved back to Porterville from Bakersfield.

Dehaas reached out to family members.

She spread the word about the lemonade stand on social media.

By the end of the day, Autumn had raised enough for her new set of wheels.

“It meant so much to know she earned her own money that mom and dad didn't need to go buy her. She got to bring her own wallet and buy it herself and pay at the cash register," DeHaas says.

But by late October, more than four months later, Dehaas got a letter in the mail from Porterville’s Finance Department.

It said she needed to pay for a business license for the lemonade stand.

The letter also included a print out of Dehaas’ Facebook post.

"I was thrown back by that. I didn't appreciate a screenshot of my daughter sent back to me," she said.

"There's no excuse why it should have been sent," says Porterville City Manager John Lollis.

He says someone anonymously filed a complaint with the city about the stand.

“We got a few complaints about these stands over the summer,” he said. “Root beer float sales, too.”

The city followed up on the complaints and sent the letter to Dehaas.

"It makes the city look bad," Lollis said.

He says children do not need a business license to sell lemonade – or any other goodies.

"We want our youth to be engaged and looking at business opportunities,” he said, pointing out the city even had nearly 100 interns over the summer, learning the inner workings of running a city.

“We received a complaint, which is a sad commentary," he said.

Lollis and City Council Member Cameron Hamilton went to Dehaas’ home Sunday to apologize.

But Dehaas and Autumn were not home.

Dehaas is just glad her family doesn’t owe anything.

She says her daughter learned an important lesson.

"There's always gonna be bitter people or bad people. But there's always gonna be good outweighing everybody," she said.

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