PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A proposed bill designed to regulate so-called ‘stop-and-go’ businesses in Philadelphia would also require some businesses to take down physical barriers, including bulletproof glass — a point of contention that drew hundreds of protesters to City Hall on Monday.
The bill’s intent, according to Councilwoman Cindy Bass, is to crack down on nuisance businesses, such as those that sell alcohol by the shot and candy to children. Governor Tom Wolf signed similar legislation last month, which gives the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board authority to shut down establishments that are violating code.
At its core, Bass’ bill aims to strengthen the requirements for businesses to obtain and keep a liquor license. It would separate businesses in the city into two categories: a small establishment (under 30 seats) and a large establishment. For example, a large establishment must have seating for more than 30 people and a restroom for the public. But it also includes the provision that requires some businesses to remove any physical barrier.
“I think they are absolutely gambling with lives,” said Chi-Ser Tran, whose family owns Red Fox Deli in North Philadelphia. “People wouldn’t have bulletproof glass if it wasn’t needed in the community.”
Tran says she supports the bill’s intent but wants it to move forward without the provision about removing physical barriers, adding violent incidents — caught on surveillance video at her store — could have ended differently without bulletproof glass.
One of the clips shows a man swinging a bat and trying to jump over the counter toward the cashier.
“My dad works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. He’s been robbed at gunpoint when he went to sweep our floors. [My parents] have been spat on. They’ve had garbage thrown at them,” Tran said. “We live in these neighborhoods. A lot of people think we just work there, take people’s money, and then go back to our mansion somewhere. This is our neighborhood as well.”
Councilwoman Bass, who sponsored the bill, says it’s meant to target businesses violating laws or using loopholes. She says city officials worked together to craft the legislation.
“They sell alcohol or candy to children. They don’t have the seating requirement. They’re not a full-service restaurant. They’re not a restaurant at all but pose themselves as one,” Bass said. “What if a customer is choking what if there are other things happening, what if there’s an allergic reaction? The barrier is not standard and best practices.”
Rich Kim, owner of Broad Deli, disagrees.
“Just amend the bill so the plexiglass stays up and all the other issues can stay because we’re all for it,” Kim said.
He says the son of the store’s previous owner was shot and killed inside, and he fears what could happen if required to take the glass down.
“I think it’s actually threatening my life and not only my life, my employees, but also the general public,” Kim said.
But some in the community say the bulletproof glass devalues customers and fosters a sense of distrust.
More than two dozen witnesses on both sides of the debate testified in front of the Committee on Licenses and Inspections on Monday.
“This barrier is a prime example of the disconnect between businesses and the customers they serve,” said Supreme Dow of the Black Writers Museum. “It is impersonal, presents look of an illegal drug businesses passing merchandise through a hole in the glass and says to the community, ‘I don’t want human contact. Just give me your money.’ If they think the business owner thinks the community in which he or she exists is so violent and unsafe, thus needs plexiglass, maybe they should consider relocation.”
Councilwoman Bass says she will not consider removing the provision about the bulletproof glass and says it exists in the bill for a reason. City Council is expected to vote on the legislation December 14.