Soured on regulations, local lemonade stand operator pulls out of Dairyfest

Stephanie Berry and daughter Alice May, at Alice May's Lemonade Stand. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

DUNBAR — A local lemonade stand won’t be slaking the thirst of Dairyfest crowds this Saturday, after Eastern Ontario Health Unit officials apprised the operators of Ontario regulations requiring hot running water and four sinks.

Joel Fawcett announced the “unfortunate” pullout of “Alice May’s Lemonade Stand” from the impending festival — and future community events — this afternoon.

Created by the wood carver and tree service operator in the whimsical style of the rustic art for which he is known, the stand has been on scene at both Chesterville’s Art on the Waterfront and Winchester Dairyfest for the last two years. It’s named in honour of six-year-old Alice May, daughter of Joel and his wife, Stephanie.

The little girl has been a fixture beside her mother as she made the wholesome refreshment from lemons, water, sugar and ice at those community events. Today, Alice May was left in tears upon learning the stand won’t be going to Dairyfest, according to her father.

Fawcett says the bad news came when the family asked Health Unit officials to their Dunbar home to inspect the portable stand. The move was prompted by an invitation to serve lemonade at yet another upcoming event — the Chesterville Fair, where the organizers want all vendors to undergo inspection. “Which is fine,” he says. “We wanted to be extra safe.”

They were surprised to learn that, in the end, their existing setup doesn’t comply with Ontario regulations. And rather than try to make expensive upgrades at this point — or possibly even buy another stand entirely — Fawcett is throwing up his hands and dropping out in disgust.

“It was certainly not for business. We did it just for the people,” he says of the lemonade sales, which happened alongside the vintage blue van promoting the couple’s publishing venture, Chickadilly Studio. “We’ve been sneaking it in the last two years, and people love us. We sell out, and we enjoy selling out.”

“We already had our hand-wash station, and I’m a food snob, man. I’m strict,” he emphasizes, explaining they always ran a clean operation. Their efforts included regularly spritzing the stand down with bleach water and pre-washing the lemons. They always used fresh bottled water and retail ice purchased on the morning of operation, he adds. “We’re really food cautious.”

“We had it set up perfectly sanitary, to the true standards of this world.”

Fawcett says it’s wrong for Ontario regulations to apparently treat a lemonade-only stand the same as a hotdog cart or a booth selling meat products. He argues the rules should be modified to acknowledge the difference. After all, it’s just lemonade.

“I didn’t do the stand to have all those headaches,” he says. “I wanted to sneak out a couple times of year for my hometown, for Art on the Waterfront and Dairyfest…. I wanted a little fun and I wanted to keep my colour going in the community.”

The current situation “takes the fun right out of it.”

“I’m not happy but I can’t dwell on it,” Fawcett adds. “It’s making me sad.”

Nation Valley News sought comment from Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, who took issue with the assertion that a lemonade stand was being treated the same as a “higher-risk” vendor selling meat products.

Via email, the doctor said:

“I want to begin by stressing that our policy is to work with and support food premises owners (be they mobile or permanent) to ensure that they operate in compliance with the applicable regulations. Our goal is not to stop them from offering their products; in fact we do our best to help them comply and operate safely for the collective health protection of the public.

“The Health Protection and Promotion Act and Food Premise Regulations require that vendors notify us in writing of their intent to operate. In this situation, we were informed about this lemonade stand very close to the date of the event. We request at least a 30 day notice which gives our inspectors time to work with owners to arrive at ways that they can comply.

“We have been inspecting lemonade stands for years with no issues. It goes without saying that we do not treat lemonade stands as higher risk meat vending premises and assertions in your article are incorrect. What we require in low risk situations, such as for those selling beverages prepared on-site, stems from the following regulation: Utensils other than multi-service articles shall be cleaned and sanitized as often as is necessary to maintain them in a clean and sanitary condition.

Dr. Roumeliotis concluded, “In this specific situation, this pertains to the pressor, the cutting board and other utensils such as a knife. In our experience this is not very difficult for operators to achieve this. As I said,  with ample advance notification, compliant practical solutions can be found. After reading my responses and clarifications you will note that there are multiple inaccuracies in your article which I would appreciate be corrected.”

Nation Valley News has asked the doctor for further clarification on whether four sinks and hot running water are required to operate a lemonade stand in Ontario.

This article was edited to include the comments of the medical officer of health and to correct the spelling of his surname.

Stephanie Berry and daughter Alice May Fawcett make lemonade at Alice May’s Lemonade stand, during Art on the Waterfront in June 2018. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

 

 

 

 

 

 

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