Business Permitting

The Icing On the Cake: Town Councilman Busts Bake Sale for Lacking Proper Permit

When a kid needs some pocket change, he has two clear options: he can ask his parents or he can strike out on his own, using some sense of ingenuity, to fill his pockets by the manna of capitalism. This latter path, seemingly availed by fewer kids with each passing generation (paper routes, anyone?), has hit a snag. The enemy of such free market ideals? A New York town councilman.

The story, almost stranger than fiction, involves two 13 year-old boys attempting to sell cupcakes, cookies, brownies and gatorade in a local park. The problem? The boys have been operating their contraband-filled concession station without a local government permit. According to news outlets, a “New Castle parks use permit requires a $1 million certificate of insurance and a fee ranging from $150 to $350 per two hours” and are “given on a ‘case-by-case basis.'” That part makes sense. After all, licensing and permitting can serve a public purpose much more significant than simple bureaucratic landmining.

The part that may not make sense to many is that our antagonist, Town Councilman Michael Wolfensohn, called the cops on these young self-starters rather than work through less formal channels.

Since the story broke, it’s gone viral. Public outcry will undoubtedly evoke the words of the great Irish satirist Jonathan Swift: “Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.”

***UPDATE December 3, 2010 UPDATE***
A happy ending to a depressing tale. The baker boys, otherwise shunned from public places in way-too-fancy Newcastle, have landed on wheels. And in a decidedly funny twist, with the help of a lawyer. A real lawyer? Nope, an unemployed lawyer running one of the more successful food trucks in New York City. The CupcakeStop, a Zagat favorite, has invited the baker boys to push their food from the bowels of a converted Ford Astro. You can update yourself, and feel good, here.

Mike Thelen is a lawyer in Womble Carlyle’s Real Estate Litigation practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients in land use and land development issues, from local governments to businesses, in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.

Categories: Business Permitting

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