Philadelphia, PA – With state legislators and Philadelphia city officials joining him, Governor Tom Wolf today held a ceremonial bill signing of legislation to crack down on nuisance bars or so-called ‘stop and go’ stores. The legislation included in the Fiscal Code gives the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) the authority to conduct more inspections and immediately suspend the liquor license of establishments that are harmful to communities.
“I am proud to sign this legislation that will help neighborhoods in Philadelphia and throughout the state deal with nuisance bars that can disrupt communities,” said Governor Wolf. “This increased inspection authority will help us to separate good and responsible owners from the bad actors, and will greatly improve our ability to crack down on the bad actors to protect our neighborhoods, making them better places to live and safer places for children and families.”
The bars or stores tend to focus on to-go alcohol sales, serving drinks to customers who leave quickly afterward, causing problems in neighborhoods, including public drunkenness, litter, public urination, and disorderly conduct. While the establishment will follow the law when applying for a liquor license or during inspections, after getting a license they may no longer meet the requirements under the Liquor Code for seating, square footage, food or health.
“‘Stop and go’ nuisance establishments and their business practices have been disruptive to our communities for decades,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes, Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This is an aggressive, positive step forward that will improve enforcement, help neighborhoods combat crime and improve quality of life.”
Currently, the PLCB inspections occur when an establishment applies for a liquor license or during the license renewal process every two years. Under the new law, the PLCB will have the authority to do an inspection if the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, a county health department or other government employee finds that a licensee does not meet the requirements of the Liquor Code.
“In June, we began to work on legislation to increase the ability of local law enforcement agencies to stop the unscrupulous business practices of local ‘stop and go’ establishments,” said Rep. Jordan Harris, chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. “Today, we are able to begin the process of removing this nuisance from our community. Although this is just one of many steps needed to ensure the safety and serenity of our neighborhoods, the political will and courage displayed by all involved shows that we are on our way to lasting change.”
Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, commented that, “In November 2015 I convened a broad group of civic, state and city stakeholders to identify the barriers to a solution; by coincidence that meeting was held at the same location where we are today. It is my hope that this seemingly intractable problem of nuisance establishments will be aided by this new legislation.”
Rep. Rosita Youngblood added, “Nuisance bars and ‘stop and go’ establishments have been the root of many problems throughout Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania for decades. We never stopped fighting the licensees who time and again took advantage of the loopholes in the Pennsylvania Liquor Code to the detriment of our communities. Our diligence as a community who cares paid off. With this new law, we are finally able to ensure that our neighborhoods can be safeguarded from ‘stop and go’ establishments while continuing to protect legitimate restaurants and businesses throughout the commonwealth.”
“‘Stop and go’ shops that disregard the obligations of their state-issued liquor licenses have become a scourge in many areas of my district and throughout Philadelphia,” said Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione, Chairwoman of the Senate Philadelphia Delegation. “Children shouldn’t be confronted with these nuisances while walking to and from school every day. Parents should be able to send their kids to the corner store for a carton of milk or a bag of candy without having to worry about people loitering and drinking in the doorway. This new set of regulations will be a valuable enforcement tool allowing local authorities and the LCB to respond promptly to valid community complaints.”
“Legislation to fix the problem of ‘stop and go’ establishments in Pennsylvania has been a long time coming,” said Rep. Maria Donatucci, Chairwoman of the House Philadelphia Delegation. “Absolutely none of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of my colleagues in the Philadelphia House Delegation. We also cannot forget the help of our colleagues in the Senate who have worked tirelessly on this issue. My husband began work on ‘stop and go’ establishments over 30 years ago, and I’m proud to be a part of helping Philadelphia correct this problem today.”
“I’ve worked on this issue throughout my 20-plus years as a state legislator,” said Sen. Anthony Williams. “I was always frustrated by the small laws that I was able to pass. This is the most aggressive legislative tool we’ve developed thus far to fight these blighting establishments, which have attracted crime to our neighborhoods and driven out law-abiding families. I am proud to have worked in a bipartisan manner with Rep. Jordan Harris, Sen. Sharif Street, Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, and others from the Philadelphia delegation to accomplish this goal. I’m confident that these new measures are the beginning of the end for illegal nuisance bars in Philadelphia and across the commonwealth.”
The legislation takes effect immediately.