The Salt Lake County Council voted 6-1 to modernize and abolish a wide variety of occupational and business licenses. The county’s Planning and Development Division slashed around 150 pages from the business license ordinance, cutting dozens of license requirements and 45 different fees. On top of that, the new license fee schedule is revenue-neutral.
For starters, Salt Lake Valley could become a lot more fun with a lot less red tape. The council eliminated licenses for “amusement devices,” operating jukeboxes, circuses, carnivals, driving ranges, mini-golf, bowling alleys (a license formerly cost $15 per lane) and arcades, which used to cost $250 a year. Salt Lake County will no longer require a special business license for rooms where people play billiards, pool, and bagatelle, as well as “backgammon, cards, checkers or other games of similar nature, or any game played with beans, buttons, dice or similar devices.”
Building on this burst of common sense, the new business ordinance explicitly exempts “lemonade stands and similar operations run by children” from needing a license to work. Sadly, towns across the country have cracked down on kids’ lemonade stands. Seriously. Police in Coralville, Iowa shut down a four-year-old girl’s lemonade stand after just a half-hour of selling 25-cent lemonade. Three tween girls in Midway, Ga. had to close their lemonade stand since they lacked a “business license, a peddler’s permit, or a food permit, all of which would have cost them $50 a day to obtain for temporary use or $180 for the year.”
Meanwhile, adult entrepreneurs should have an easier time. Auctioneers, “automobile wrecking establishments,” florists, secondhand dealers, junk dealers and those hosting swap meets, flea markets, liquidation sales and parking lots, are also freed from licensing. Laundromats no longer have to pay $6 to register each coin-operated washer and dryer they own. Perhaps most fittingly, a $100 license to work is no longer needed to open an employment office.
License liberalization was widely praised by many businesses and local chambers of commerce. Bennion Gardner, president of the Magna Chamber of Commerce supported the effort:
The main goal was to simplify, and they’ve done that…We’ve had businesses that tried to open in Magna, but getting business licenses sometimes was difficult. They had to spend a lot of money and time getting licenses before they could open their doors. So they would start out in the hole immediately — which is hard for a small business to do.
Deregulating occupational licenses was even supported by the bureaucrats in charge of licensing. Division Director Rolen Yoshinaga told the Salt Lake Tribune that enforcing the ordinance could be very difficult: “It was just running us around in circles, trying to effectively apply and enforce the ordinance.” He also noted that after reading some of the old provisions, many staffers would say, “‘this is crazy. Why are we doing this?’”
According to the Institute for Justice’s report, License to Work, Utah is the 12th most extensively and onerously licensed state. While the Beehive State is better than many states for occupational licenses, there is still room for improvement. An emergency medical technician needs only a month of training in Utah. Yet the licensing requirements for cosmetologists, barbers and massage therapists are all much more stringent, requiring 467, 233, and 140 days of experience, respectively.
Last August, IJ won a major case for economic liberty in Utah. Jestina Clayton won the right to braid hair, after a federal court struck down Utah’s hairbraiding licensing scheme. Jestina and other entrepreneurs can now open their businesses without having to endure 2,000 hours of government-mandated training to get a cosmetology license.
— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice