Outrage as Philly pushes through ban on bulletproof glass in crime-plagued neighborhood shops

Philadelphia is one step closer to getting rid of bulletproof glass in many of its small businesses as part of a larger effort to crack down on loitering, public urination and potential drug sales — but it’s triggered backlash from the shopkeepers.

The city’s Public Health and Human Services Committee passed a bill that enables Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections to regulate the bullet-resistant barricades that stand between customers and cash registers in many neighborhood corner stores, according to Fox 29.

“No establishment required to obtain a Large Establishment license … shall erect or maintain a physical barrier that requires the persons serving the food either to open a window or other aperture or to pass the food through a window or other aperture, in order to hand the food to a customer inside the establishment,” the bill states. It also calls for larger establishments to have bathrooms for customers.

Many of the hundreds of deli owners feel as though they are being singled out and are among those protesting the bill, according to Fox 29.

“If the glass comes down, the crime rate will rise and there will be lots of dead bodies,” Rich Kim, the owner of Broad Deli, which sells soda, meals and beer by the can, said. “The most important thing is safety and the public’s safety.”

Kim said the glass went up after a shooting and says it saved his mother-in-law from a knife attack.

Fox News previously reported that the bill, put forward by Councilwoman Cindy Bass, focuses on “stop-and-go” convenience stores that act more like bars than the restaurants they are licensed to be, selling beer and shots of liquor over the counter and attracting crowds that end up becoming public nuisances, according to lawmakers.

Pennsylvania state law mandates businesses with restaurant licenses should regularly sell food and have tables and chairs to seat 30 people. But some businesses keep their seating locked up or out of reach and the grills shut down, selling little more than alcohol and forcing customers to wander outside.

Bass told Fox News that in “more than 90 percent of cases they are breaking the law in terms of operating outside the requirement of their license.”

Bass said the bulletproof glass and partitions at some of these businesses are a concern of the city’s health department, as if a customer is choking or having an allergic reaction, a barrier should not stand in the way of safety.

She also addressed the security concerns. “Thousands of businesses operate in the same neighborhoods with no Plexiglass,” she told Fox News, mentioning stores like Rite-Aid and barber shops. “I’ve never been to a bar with Plexiglass.”

Kim objected to the claims that the bill stemmed from nuisance complaints city officials got from constituents, and said that calls to police often were met with slow responses.

The chairman of the Asian American Licensed Beverage Association of Philadelphia, which represents 217 ‘beer delis’ in the city, also said most of the businesses being targeted “are in not-as-safe neighborhoods.” 

A full council vote is slated for Thursday, December 14, according to Fox 29.