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December 14, 2017

Opinion: Forcible removal of bulletproof glass will create a war zone

Opinion City Council
071116_bulletproof_shooting2 Source/Philadelphia Police Department

Surveillance video captured a shooting during a robbery in North Philadelphia in 2016.

Forcing businesses to remove bulletproof glass is a formula for a bloody disaster. It would force business owners to carry guns which is the wrong approach in neighborhoods already full of too many guns. This proposal doesn’t solve issues, but instead creates more issues in neighborhoods dealing with tough realities. Is it fair to blame beer deli stores for the existence of corner culture?

Beer Deli Stores are convenience stores and with hot food service, and an asset to communities that other businesses overlook. They have history in these communities not only as store owners, but as residents. It is disingenuous to blame the store owners living and serving these communities for the realities of impoverished neighborhoods.

RELATED READ: Opinion: No, Cindy Bass won't have 'blood on her hands'

Philadelphia’s poverty rate is over 25 percent, and the hard truth is that many neighborhoods face a tough battle drawing in business. These neighborhoods are dealing with struggling schools, drug addiction, and food deserts. The fact is that we proudly live, and service these communities. Why? Because these businesses are our homes, and these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods.

This bill introduced by Councilwoman Bass looks to regulate beer deli stores or “restaurants” in many ways that we agree with, and brought to the Councilwoman’s attention by us, prior to the introduction of the bill. It is a bill that ensures business are making a clear distinction between being a convenience store and a restaurant. The bill looks to force many businesses to comply with state liquor laws which isn’t an issue for many of our businesses. The fact is that only a few convenience stores skirt state regulations, and the Asian American Licensed Beverage Association of Philadelphia is committed to shutting those stores down.

Some of our relatives have been shot and killed in our businesses, and removing the bulletproof glass would only increase this troubling trend.

So where do we disagree? The insistence of removing bulletproof glass from restaurants. Removing the bulletproof glass is a step too far. It’s unnecessary, and quite frankly an endangerment to our families. Many of our businesses are cash only, and an easy target for communities dealing with the desperation of poverty. Some of our relatives have been shot and killed in our businesses, and removing the bulletproof glass would only increase this troubling trend.

Through no fault of the community, these neighborhoods are dealing with the realities of poverty, and in many cases, we are one of the few businesses servicing the community, making us a target sometimes, and the bulletproof glass creates a necessary barrier to save lives. Poverty breeds crime, and we face this actuality daily, and the bulletproof glass is a way to ensure we are safe, and not harmed.

We can fight the issue of businesses skirting state regulations without endangering Asian American families. In fact, in 2004, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced a bill highlighting many of the same issues Councilwoman Bass’ bill highlights, but didn’t include the removal of the bulletproof glass. The removal of the bulletproof glass is a license to kill, and would force us to begin to carry guns which isn’t something we’d like to have to do, although it was suggested by Councilwoman Bass.

We love these neighborhoods, and wouldn’t want them to turn into war zones. We take offense to being grouped with the few beer deli stores that don’t comply with state law, and being described as a nuisance establishments.

It is flat out dangerous and unfair to the community to force our businesses to remove the bulletproof glass. Is this being suggested to banks, gas stations or in big chain fast food locations in these neighborhoods? All businesses have a right to keep their locations secure. They should not be forced to remove such a vital measure of protection.

Beer deli stores gladly serve communities that many businesses will not. Many businesses won’t come for the same reason we need the bulletproof glass. Removing the bulletproof glass doesn’t solve the results of doing business in poverty stricken neighborhoods, so why is this removal measure necessary?

Removing the bulletproof glass, and forcing us out won’t usher in a new wave of businesses, it will create a war zone, and force out businesses that are dedicated to the neighborhoods they call work and home.

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Adam Xu is chairman of the Asian American Licensed Beverage Association of Philadelphia.