A Philadelphia city councilwoman is defending her controversial bill that would force certain businesses to remove bulletproof barriers separating cashiers and customers.
Councilwoman Cindy Bass said in a statement her proposed legislation only affects stores applying for a "large establishment" license, or sit-down restaurants where food is served and there is seating and tables for 30 or more people.
The goal is to crack down on so-called "stop-and-go" shops, or convenience stores that sell hot food and alcohol, many of which have become nuisances to neighborhoods with intoxicated and unruly customers, according to Bass and other lawmakers.
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Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation last month that cracks down on these stores, giving the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board more leeway in inspecting and shutting down stores with violations. Bass hopes her bill will help further regulate on these establishments.
Her bill would also require large establishments to have a publicly accessible restroom and serve food regularly. Bass said in many instances, stop-and-go stores claim to sell hot food to obtain liquor licenses, selling liquor "by the shot" and operating "under fraudulent circumstances."
"The very nature of these businesses encourages addiction and fuels nuisance behavior including loitering, the sale of loose cigarettes, public urination and possibly illegal drug sales," said Bass, who represents the 8th District, which includes Germantown, Chestnut Hill, Nicetown, Tioga and Mt. Airy.
Business owners have raised safety concerns in response to Bass' bill, specifically regarding a section that would bar such establishments from erecting a "physical barrier" between a customer and an employee serving food.
Rich Kim, who runs a family-owned deli in North Philly, told FOX29 his business put up a Plexiglas barrier after a shooting. He said forcing stores like his to take down barriers would increase the crime rate and endanger workers, adding that calls for police assistance are often met with a slow response.
Bass tried to clarify that her bill would only regulate large establishments, not corner stores, small pharmacies or similar businesses. She said her office has also proposed safety alternatives to barriers, such as lighting, cameras, security guards, security wands and police check-ins.
"Let me just say, I take the safety of all Philadelphia residents very, very seriously," Bass said.