City Council passed Bill No. 170963, also known as the Restaurant Licensing Bill, last Thursday. The legislation, introduced by Councilwoman Cindy Bass (D- 8th Dist.), creates new licensing requirements for restaurant establishments.
“The passage of this bill is a victory for the City of Philadelphia,” Councilwoman Bass said. “It is a victory for communities and residents who have long been plagued by illegal businesses that breed crime and nuisance behavior. It is a victory for business owners who want to take steps to become the viable, sit-down restaurants and upstanding establishments our communities want and deserve. And it is a great step toward improved quality of life and equitable business operation across the city.”
The Restaurant Licensing Bill will help business owners come into compliance with state law by categorizing business licenses as “small establishment” licenses and “large establishment” licenses. Large establishments are intended to be sit-down restaurants and are defined as businesses with tables and seating for at least 30 patrons where food is expected to be consumed on the premises. Under the provisions of the bill, large establishments are required to have a minimum of one bathroom that is publicly accessible without passing through a food preparation area. New small establishments must also have an available restroom facility as required by the Plumbing Code, while already-existing small establishments are not affected by this provision.
“This bill is the culmination of the 25-plus years of work that Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell has put in to address the unacceptable business practices that have been going on for far too long, and I thank her,” Bass said Thursday. “Our office has worked on this matter for several years now, desperately trying to work with stop-n-go owners in my district to change their business model — which was met with silence from these operators — and in October 2016, we arranged a tour with L&I Commissioner David Perri, Health Commissioner Tom Farley, former Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer, representatives from the Philadelphia Police Department and staff from Liquor Control Enforcement. That tour left the attendees flabbergasted. We asked for help; and it was delivered in the form of this bill. I want to thank the tour attendees and Mayor Kenney for their unwavering support and encouragement. I also want to thank my colleagues in Council for voting to approve this legislation.”
Under the bill, the Department of Licenses and Inspections will work to determine and announce regulations on the use or removal of any physical barrier between restaurant employees serving food and restaurant customers by January 1, 2021.
“Stop-n-go’s have always been a thorn in the sides of Black and Brown communities. Nothing — and I do mean nothing — good has ever come out of their presence in our communities,” said Asa Khalif of Black Lives Matter Pennsylvania. “This bill is not about plexiglass. This bill is about responsibility and accountability: Two words stop-n-go owners never had to live up to.”
“This bill is important. Cindy Bass has pushed forth a real issue,” said Stephanie Ridgeway, a business owner at 22nd Street and Ridge Avenue.
“For us, it’s about corporate social responsibility. Businesses have a social responsibility not to do things that are wrong,” said Ryan Boyer, business manager of the Laborers’ District Council. “We’re asking you to maybe remove a barrier, so that we can build a bridge to the community.”
Said Councilwoman Bass: “We are taking our communities back. You can join us, or you can make your decision not to. But what ‘was’ is just that: ‘What was.’ It is past tense. There is no looking back or going back. There is only going forward.
“It’s a forward march,” Bass continued. “And we’re all going: Black, White, Brown, Asian—it doesn’t matter. We’re moving Philadelphia forward. All neighborhoods together. Some are going to walk, some might have to be pulled forward, but we’re going to stop leaving neighborhoods behind. It starts now.”
New requirements under the bill are effective immediately. Large establishments have until May 1, 2018 to install the required restroom.