Philadelphia to outlaw Kensington Avenue’s night life past 11 p.m., except bars

The stretch of 24-hour smoke shops, bodegas and take-out food joints along Kensington Avenue must close at night if City Council changes the law soon.

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Quetcy Lozada looks out on council chambers while seated at her desk.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Quetcy Lozada. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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Dozens of Kensington neighborhood businesses will be forced to close late at night — every night — if Philadelphia City Council changes the law in the coming weeks.

The City Council Committee on Licenses and Inspections approved the legislation on Feb. 23. The proposed law was spearheaded by District 7 Councilmember Quetcy Lozada, who represents the Kensington area.

Councilmember Lozada said it’s just one strategy to address the open-air drug trade and criminal activity in the neighborhood that’s plagued the community for decades.

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“The goal is to ensure that whatever we can remove from that particular footprint that contributes to nuisance activity and that interferes with quality of life in the Kensington community that we start to address it now,” Lozada said after the public hearing on Friday.

The pilot area is East Lehigh Avenue northbound to East Tioga Street along Kensington Avenue but also stretching west to D Street and east to Frankford Avenue — it essentially creates a triangle.

A map of a proposed area for a business curfew law in Kensington
A map of the proposed business hour restriction law was provided after the public hearing. (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)

Inside those boundaries, there are more than 100 businesses, but it appears only about two dozen may be affected by the mandate to close between 11 p.m. and not reopen until after 6 a.m. each morning.

The law won’t affect bars or establishments with liquor licenses, which can serve alcohol until 2 a.m., but it will shutter take-out restaurants, smoke shops and bodegas.

A map of a proposed area for a business curfew area in Kensington
There are more than 100 businesses along the Kensington Avenue commercial corridor inside the zone where operating hours could be restricted before the end of February 2024. (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)

Councilmember Lozada said she already gets complaints from responsible business owners who must clean up the morning mess.

“It’s total chaos,” said. “The trash, the amount of people who are now laying in front of [the] businesses because they have been patrons of businesses who have stayed open throughout the night. It’s problematic.”

The proposed law restricting business hours of operation is not a new concept.

A similar law has been on the books in Camden, New Jersey, since 2012, requiring any business within 200 feet of a residential community to close by 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and at midnight on Friday and Saturday. Some businesses tried to fight the law in court but lost.

So far, there isn’t any organized opposition to the proposed Kensington Avenue law. At least, none who testified during the public hearing on Friday. The proposed law has support from law enforcement responsible for the area.

“We believe that this curfew can positively impact crime and disorder that historically occurs during the overnight hours,” said Francis Healy, deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department. “We believe that this bill can create a synergy with the plan being developed by the PPD to address not only open air drug markets but the overall quality of life for residents.”

There are even plans to add such restrictions to more Philadelphia neighborhoods, council members said during the committee hearing.

That’s something Kimberly Washington, CEO of Frankford Community Development Corporation, would support.

There’s already a cluster of 24-hour smoke shops in her community that’s outside of the pilot area.

Washington said she’s worried that the crowds along Kensington Avenue won’t simply disperse because the stores are closed but rather just move outside of the boundaries and cause trouble in the Frankford neighborhood.

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“We’re only separated by one train stop,” she said. “What you do in Kensington will likely push that activity to Frankford.”

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