Councilwoman Cindy Bass introduced legislation Thursday to prevent the existence of nuisance businesses and stop-n-go establishments, that sell beer, liquor and tobacco products alongside candy and soda, by adding additional food establishment license requirements. Bass worked with Mayor Jim Kenney and his administration to help craft the legislation.
“I’m excited for what this new legislation will mean for neighborhoods in Philadelphia that have been plagued by bad business practices that fuel addiction and attract nuisance behavior,” Councilwoman Bass said.
By amending the “Food Establishments” and “Licenses and Permits” sections of The Philadelphia Code, the bill adds two specific food establishment licenses to strengthen requirements businesses must meet in order to obtain licenses to sell alcohol and liquor.
“Undefined language in The Philadelphia Code has in the past allowed unscrupulous business owners to open sham businesses under the guise that they would be restaurant establishments serving food and providing seating for guests,” Councilwoman Bass said. “In reality, these businesses rarely have food offerings, can rarely fit the 30 seats required to obtain a liquor license, and yet continue to sell beer and liquor-by-the-shot for adults alongside candy and soda for children. This bill will help eradicate these nuisance business practices by requiring establishments to prove they meet certain requirements before obtaining a food establishment license.”
The legislation adds a provision categorizing food establishment licenses as either a “Large Establishment” license or a “Small Establishment” license. To obtain a “Small Establishment” license, a business without room for 30 seats needs to show proof of a customer restroom accessible to visitors without having to pass through a food preparation area. Under the “Large Establishment” provision, a food establishment must have 30 or more chairs regularly accessible to customers and have an accessible restroom with no fewer than two toilet rooms.
“Large Establishment” businesses also cannot maintain any type of physical barrier such as a glass or barred window between employees and customers through which to pass food.
Both licenses will now require establishments to show proof of the preparation of “regular and customary” food offerings and sales.
“Often times stop-n-go establishments use loopholes to obtain restaurant-based liquor licenses. The establishments may have a restroom, but the restrooms are not accessible to customers. The establishments purport to sell food, but their food preparation areas are cold and food storage areas contain only ramen noodles or hot dogs and paper bowls,” Councilwoman Bass said. “This legislation will close those loopholes and require businesses to either operate as respectable, standard restaurants or else stay out of our neighborhoods.”
The Department of Licenses and Inspection is charged with enforcing the new food establishment requirements before granting licenses. Businesses have until September 1, 2018 to meet the new requirements.
“Stop-and-go’s not only put children in proximity to alcohol and tobacco consumption, but also attract nuisance behavior outside of the establishment,” Councilwoman Bass said. “All neighborhoods, regardless of socioeconomic status and racial composition, deserve upstanding businesses that serve and represent their communities. I want to thank Mayor Kenney and his administration for working with my office on this important piece of legislation and I look forward to working with L&I, the police department and other stakeholders.”
The bill will be heard in the Committee on Licenses and Inspections.
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Councilwoman Cindy Bass represents the 8th Council District, which includes Germantown, Mt. Airy, Nicetown, Tioga, Chestnut Hill, portions of Logan, and West Oak Lane. She is Chair of Council’s committees on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs and Public Health and Human Services.