Philly stop-and-go bill passes, giving city power to remove bulletproof barriers

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Stop and go owners line up to get into City Hall (Tom MacDonald, WHYY)

Stop and go owners line up to get into City Hall (Tom MacDonald, WHYY)

Philadelphia City Council has approved a controversial bill to crack down on stop-and-go stores, a move many Asian business owners say constitutes discrimination.

The legislation calls for sweeping reforms to the small delis and corner stores that serve alcohol by the shot in many low-income neighborhoods.

The bill’s sponsor had harsh words for some stop-and-go proprietors.

“You preyed upon addicts, people with a habit, a dependency that forced them to seek you out. This is not a willing customer,” said City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, the bill sponsor. “How many lives were destroyed by your encouraging hand.”

Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to sign the bill.

In that case, stop-and-gos will be required to conform to code — including providing tables and chairs and having kitchens — instead of selling shots of alcohol and snacks from behind bulletproof glass.

And the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections will have until 2021 to come up with regulations for the use and removal of bulletproof glass in some establishments.

Putting the onus on L&I to decide on the bulletproof glass shields was an amendment to the original bill, which would have immediately banned these barriers.

But that did little to satisfy members of the Asian American Licensed Beverage Association who packed City Council chambers, saying the measure discriminates against them.

“Every bank, every SEPTA station, every cash-checking place, several chain restaurants … if you go up and down Broad Street, you have McDonald’s KFC’s with bulletproof glass,” said business owner Richard Taing. “They are all exempt from this order, it’s only targeted to us.”

On the other hand, Stephanie Ridgeway said supports removing the glass and cleaning up the stop-and-gos, which she said are a scourge on poor neighborhoods.

“This is about business being wrong from the very beginning,” she said. “This is about people coming into our communities and setting up shop and taking the money home with them and leaving us there to suffer the consequences.

“Nightly, I see urination, defecation and other actions taking place where I live because I live and work in this community,” she said.

The business owners vowed that if they end up having to take down their bulletproof glass, they would arm themselves and that could result in more violence.

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