How the Bureaucrats Stole Christmas
November 25, 2017
Every year, Lee Sepanek’s Christmas display brings joy to Phoenicians, who visit to enjoy the glistening decorations and sip the hot chocolate he serves them.
But not this year. Thanks to Phoenix bureaucrats, Lee has been forced to cancel the show.
The trouble started this summer, when the city warned him he was in violation of its Mobile Food Vending Ordinance, even though he isn’t operating any kind of “mobile” facility. He doesn’t even charge for the cocoa — he just asks for donations. But the city says its rules are broad enough to prohibit even giving away cocoa — made from hot water and powdered mix — from your driveway.
Officials told Lee he “would need to find a licensed commissary kitchen as a ‘base’ to store, clean and prep any open food,” and that he would have to get a “special event/seasonal permit,” requiring fees and “inspections onsite.” They also complained that Lee was selling Christmas ornaments, arguing that violates Phoenix’s rules against having a “home occupation.”
After local news exposed Lee’s story, the city indicated it might budge, but it’s too late. Even if city officials changed their minds, Lee couldn’t get the lights up in time for Christmas. The Goldwater Institute has stepped in to represent Lee and help get his legendary lights get turned back on.
We’re also working on an even larger problem. Across Arizona, local governments are trying to shut down home-based businesses, violating private property rights and harming economic opportunity. The Goldwater Institute is joining with the Free Enterprise Club to urge state lawmakers to broaden protections for home-based businesses.
In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge questions the Ghost of Christmas Present about laws that forced Londoners to close their stores on holidays — which, Scrooge says, essentially deprived them of income. Why, Scrooge asks, should the Ghost “cramp these people’s opportunities of innocent enjoyment?”
Shocked, the Ghost says he did no such thing — that was done by people who act “in our name” but who don’t really get the Christmas spirit. It’s sad to think Phoenix officials have a poorer understanding of the holidays than Scrooge.
Liberty in the News
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