More than 100 residents were in City Council chambers on Thursday to demonstrate their opposition to Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ bill tightening regulations on so-called "stop-n-gos."
Many wore T-shirts stating, “Bulletproof glass for all.” Others held signs reading, “Don’t let Ba$$ take away our glass.” One woman carried a photograph of her 19-year-old son who was killed in a store with no bulletproof glass.
But community members from Philly neighborhoods agreed with Bass that some of these stores are fomenting addiction and substance abuse.
“These stop-and-go stores have been a menace in our communities for a long time,” said Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League, who supported the bill. “It’s not about plexiglass; it’s not about the safety issue. It’s about doing the right thing in the neighborhood where you do business. Whoever sent the fake news to you, you need to check them, because it’s not about plexiglass, and we are not here to kill you.”
Opposition to the bill was catalyzed by the belief that small businesses and delis around Philly, many of which are owned by Asian-Americans, would not be allowed to maintain bulletproof glass barriers in their businesses.
In fact, the bill, which passed Council on Thursday 14-3, does not ban bulletproof glass.
It calls for the Department of Licenses & Inspections to determine by 2021 how bulletproof glass/safety barriers/plexiglass will be regulated in larger restaurants with at least 30 seats. Restaurants will now be divided based on the number of seats, and the bill does not affect the use of barriers in restaurants with fewer than 30 seats. It does require restaurants with 30 or more seats to provide bathrooms by July 1, 2018.
City Councilman David Oh, who voted against the bill along with Councilmen Domb and Squilla, said he was concerned store-owners not allowed to have bulletproof glass would choose to arm themselves.
But Bass said the bill is intended to crack down on stop-n-gos, so-called beer delis licensed as restaurants which sell individual shots of liquor, in addition to items like cough syrup, glass stems that could be used for smoking crack, flavored cigars and other items used to get high.
“You can’t get a pastrami on rye in any of these places. … When was the last time you got a serving of Nyquil at a restaurant?” Bass asked. “Masquerading as restaurants, they sell almost everything you need to get high, and if they don’t have it, often someone loitering inside or outside has the rest. … This business model is over. It's done.”
Mayor Kenney has indicated he will sign the bill into law.