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Who Is Licensed in a Pineapple Under the Sea?


Shoshana Weissmann
Director, Digital Media; Fellow

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“For far too long, King Neptune has governed with an overly bureaucratic approach stunting innovation and economic growth, which is no surprise coming from an absolute monarch,” said former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. “It’s time that Spongebob and his friends are allowed to live without the weight of burdensome government regulation. I encourage Bikini Bottom to follow the example of many other great American states in implementing a comprehensive universal licensing law which provides more opportunities for all.”


Much like the United States, Bikini Bottom has a stable economy, labor laws and a system of law enforcement. Though depicted as a city, it also has a national anthem (see “Imitation Krabs”); thus, it is perhaps most accurate to call it a “city-state.” Estimates put the population around 50,000 sentient beings. Unlike the United States, however, Bikini Bottom’s government structure seems to be a monarchy; it has been ruled by a variety of kings, from Krabs to Neptune.

But Bikini Bottom is like the United States in a key, unfortunate respect: Both suffer from excessive regulation. Much as in our own federal code, even mundane activities, such as reading someone else’s diary without permission, are considered criminal. Moreover, the city-state licenses a variety of behaviors that are sorted below into the categories of occupational, vending, vehicle and recreational. This analysis evaluates the status, purpose and value of each license and then recommends how the district can reform the current system.

Occupational Licenses

According to all available sources on Bikini Bottom, the only occupational licenses that exist are for professionals who make milkshakes (separate from the Milkshake Dispenser Operator vending license), marriage officiants, fry cooks, magic practitioners and teachers. Compared to the United States, Bikini Bottom licenses drastically fewer occupations. However, Bikini Bottom also licenses occupations that the United States does not, as well as some that it does.

Like Bikini Bottom, all states in America license teachers. But unlike Bikini Bottom, no states license the practice of magic—some localities do license fortune tellers, however. Bikini Bottom also has occupational licenses for fry cooks and milkshake producers. While American restaurants often need a variety of permits and licenses, fry cooks and those who make milkshakes are not licensed. U.S. marriage officiants are regulated differently by each state and eligible according to different requirements, but no state requires them to obtain state licenses.

License Type S/E Episode Exemptions Image
Milkshake Occupational S9/E181 License to
(license to
marry others)
Occupational S12/E242 Farmerbob N/A
Fry cook Occupational S11/E239 The Night
Occupational S4/E76 Hocus
Teacher Occupational S11/E222 Teacher's

Vending Licenses

Vendor licenses and variations thereof are common in the United States and are also a form of license in Bikini Bottom. A license is required to sell cookies in Bikini Bottom. Similarly, in the United States, the ability to sell homemade food is regulated by “cottage food” laws that vary by state. There are some states, such as Wyoming and Utah, that permit the sale of almost all kinds of homemade food, while others only allow shelf-stable foods, such as sweet snacks and baked goods, to be sold. Bikini Bottom also has a separate vending license for selling lemonade. Likewise, in order for children to open a lemonade stand in the United States, most states require them to obtain a license. The final type of vending license is the aforementioned “Milkshake Dispenser Operator” license.

License Type S/E Episode Exemptions Image
Vendor Vending S9 E189 SpongeBob
You're Fired
Cookie-selling Vending S11 E236 Call the Cops N/A
Vending S11 E231 Ink
Vending S7 E132 Yours, Mine
and Mine

Vehicle Licenses

Bikini Bottom also licenses multiple kinds of vehicles, including tractors, boats, invisible boats and bubbles. Boating licenses are only required to drive standard boats, and are not required in order to drive self-driving boats, bubbles or sandwiches. Presumably and according to available information, sandwiches as vehicles are not otherwise licensed in Bikini Bottom. Here again, we see similarities with American law. States generally place restrictions on who may or may not drive boats, and some states do require licenses. However, no state appears to have special or distinct licenses for invisible boats or bubble boats, whereas in Bikini Bottom, it has its own class of license. And no license is required in order to drive a tractor in the United States.

License Type S/E Episode Exemptions Image
Tractor Vehicle S12 E242 Farmerbob N/A
Boating Vehicle S12 E242 Farmerbob Self-driving
boat [S11 E227],
Bubble [S10
E210], Sandwich
[The SpongeBob
Vehicle S2 E31 Mermaid
Man and
Boy II
Bubble Vehicle S10 E210 Burst Your

Recreational Licenses

Licensed recreational activity also bears some resemblance to that of America. Bikini Bottom licenses fishing and jellyfishing. Fishing is often licensed in America and jellyfishing is a multimillion dollar industry. These licenses differ somewhat from those in Bikini Bottom, as the fishing license held by Patrick Star may actually be more akin to a “license to kill,” and may also explain the money Star has to spend without otherwise working. Unlike in the United States, jellyfishing in Bikini Bottom is not a primarily economic but recreational activity, in part due to the massive abuse that took place when Mr. Krabs attempted to monetize jellyfishing wherein he took to factory farming the gentle sea creatures.

The district of Bikini Bottom also licenses those who play the sitar, a stringed instrument of the lute family. Neither this, nor other instruments, are the subject of licenses in America. Crop circles are also licensed in Bikini Bottom and are not so licensed in America.

License Type S/E Episode Exemptions Image
Fishing Recreational S12 E242 Farmerbob N/A
Jellyfishing Recreational S7 E134 SpongeBob's
Last Stand
Sitar Recreational S7 E134 SpongeBob's
Last Stand
Crop Circle Recreational S12 E242 Farmerbob N/A


In addition to licenses, many certifications exist in Bikini Bottom. In most cases, it is unclear if these certifications are overseen by the government or by the private sector and, if the latter, whether the government requires private certification in order to participate in the relevant activity. Thumbologists are the only kind of doctor to be board-certified. It is possible that doctors are licensed in a similar way to how they are in the United States, but there is no clear evidence on that matter. That said, when Star impersonated a physician, a real physician used the hands of Hans to inflict punishment. It was unclear if the punishment was at the physician’s discretion or if using the offender to clean a toilet is the official punishment for impersonating a physician, or even if impersonation of a physician is an offense. Only one other known board certification exists and that is for antique macrame connoisseurs. Other certifications include foot masseurs, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy impersonators, public accountants and fools. A final certification is not for an activity but for a product: snail shells may be certified indestructible.


In most cases, Bikini Bottom residents would benefit from fewer licenses in order to open up competition. Creating or dispensing milkshakes and frying Krabby Patties are no more dangerous than any other food creation methods and ought to be considered for full deregulation. The licensing of marriage officiants by Bikini Bottom government also likely reduces access to professionals and harms the ability of residents to marry. Marriage is good for the economy and should not be discouraged; therefore that license should also be considered for full deregulation. Much in the same way that government licensing of fortune tellers confers a strange legitimacy on the profession, so does licensing of magicians. Magicians should not be licensed in the district.

Vendor licenses should be consolidated into a simpler form, only as necessary to ensure health and safety of the public. The reason for the license is not clear and if it exists, it should remain narrow and targeted. Special licenses to sell cookies and lemonade are unnecessary.

When it comes to vehicles, Bikini Bottom should consider consolidating licenses. Because boats are street-legal, ensuring only drivers who can pass boating school are able to drive one makes sense. But this license should also work for invisible boats and bubbles. Invisible licenses, used for invisible boats, may be easily lost. And similarly, bubble licenses for bubble boats may too easily pop. If sandwiches are street legal, Bikini Bottom may want to require a license to drive them or allow them to be covered by boating licenses. Tractors, however, probably don’t need a license if they are primarily used for farm work.

Recreational licenses generally may work well in their current forms. Jellyfish licenses may be necessary for jellyfish population control and conservation. Musical instrument licenses are not necessary, nor are licenses for crop circles.

For a very different reason, the district ought to reconsider the fishing license. If this analysis is correct and the license amounts to a sanction to kill fellow sentient fish, this power should not be given by license to private citizens