Federal prosecutors have sued the South Philadelphia Taproom, claiming that the popular bar and restaurant in the Newbold section of the city violated U.S. law by not providing access to people with disabilities.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it tried on numerous occasions — by snail mail, email and in-person delivery — to compel owner John Longacre to fill out a survey about the establishment’s compliance with the American with Disabilities Act. Federal officials say they delivered letters to Longacre detailing “barriers to accessibility” that had to be addressed, all of which were ignored, officials say.
However, as U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger wrote in a statement, “neither the ADA, nor the warnings from this office, were enough to convince the South Philadelphia Tap Room to comply with the law, and the goal of this lawsuit is to see that they finally do.”
The violations primarily concern entrances and bathroom accessibility at the Taproom. For instance, the bathrooms lack Braille signage and the bathroom doors are less than 32 inches wide. The bathroom doors have “knobs, which require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist,” a violation of federal law, according to the suit. And entrance doors are not wide enough.
Owner Longacre said he was stunned by the lawsuit.
“We haven’t received one piece of documentation suggesting we were noncompliant,” said Longacre, adding that he had filled out the survey.
“There are very, very, very minor violations in this suit, all of which we wouldn’t fight,” he said.
Longacre, who also operates the American Sardine Bar, encountered various run-ins with city regulators last summer over the operation of a controversial pop-up beer garden in the gentrifying Point Breeze section of Philadelphia.
The federal lawsuit, Longacre said, should just be added to the heap of the many challenges of being a Philadelphia buiness owner. From that perspective, he said, he’s not surprised at all.
“We’re in an extraordinarily regulated industry not only in the highest taxed municipality in the country, but one of the highest regulated cities in the country. It’s a very, very hostile place to do business,” Longacre said. “When you get sued with no notification, or even as much as being served with a suit, I would consider that hostile.”
In March, the U.S. Attorney’s Office launched a review of Philadelphia’s 25 most popular restaurants, vetting each to ensure ADA compliance.
An office spokeswoman said the initiative was not driven by complaints.