PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A bill targeting “beer delis” passed City Council this week.
Asian business owners call it a “kill bill,” referring to a provision that could remove glass barriers.
Kenny’s Seafood and Steak on Wayne Avenue in North Philadelphia has tall glass barriers lined on the inside with beer cans and cigarette boxes and with little if any food for sale.
“This does not fit the requirements of being a restaurant,” says Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who sponsored the bill which passed City Council 14 to 3.
It requires beer delis like Kenny’s to put in seating and bathroom or else stop selling alcohol. It also gives L&I the power to create rules for use of glass barriers in such establishments.
“This bill pokes at us…targets us,” says Jeff Liu, who owns Kenny’s which he says earns most of its revenue from beer sales and little if any from food. But he says without the glass barriers he’ll shut down to avoid danger to himself and his family.
“I’ll have no choice,” he says, “if I have to shut down, we’ll shut down.”
Kenny’s has some seating, but it’s not easily accessible to customers. Councilwoman Bass says he’d have to reconfigure the establishment to meet state and now, L&I guidelines.
“We want to work with these business owners to find a better option,” says Bass, “because this business model is no longer workable.”
Members of the Asian American Licensed Beverages Association (AALBA) packed into City Hall to oppose the bill. Numerous business owners told stories of robberies, beatings and even deaths caused by having no glass barriers. They also told stories of how glass barriers saved lives. Many members of AALBA called the bill racist and designed to get Asian business owners out of black neighborhoods, a notion which Bass rejects.
“I’m offended at the very accusation,” she says, “I really don’t care what race they are, they could be purple for all I care. What we really care about is taking care of our citizens and taking care of our communities.”
Mayor Kenny is expected to sign the bill which would go into effect in 2018, but give L&I three years to create glass barrier rules.