The current proposal before Philadelphia City Council doesn’t solve issues, but instead creates more issues in neighborhoods dealing with tough realities. 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. Is it fair to blame beer deli stores for the existence of corner culture?
These convenience stores with hot food service are an asset to communities that other businesses overlook. Their proprietors 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. Philadelphia’s poverty rate is over 25 percent, and the hard truth is that many neighborhoods face a tough battle drawing in businesses. These neighborhoods are dealing with struggling schools, drug addiction and food deserts. The fact is that we proudly live in – and serve – these communities. Why? Because these businesses are our homes, and these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods.
This bill introduced by Councilwoman Cindy Bass looks to regulate beer deli stores in many ways that we agree with – and which we brought to the Councilwoman’s attention prior to the introduction of the bill. It is a bill that ensures businesses are making a clear distinction between being a convenience store and a restaurant. The bill looks to force 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.
So where do we disagree? The insistence on removing bulletproof glass from restaurants. Removing the bulletproof glass is a step too far. It’s unnecessary and, quite frankly, will endanger our families. Many of our businesses are cash only, and easy targets for perpetrators caught in the desperation of poverty. Some of our relatives have been shot and killed in our businesses; 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. In many cases, we are among the few businesses servicing the community. This can make us a target – the bulletproof glass creates a necessary barrier to save lives.
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’s bill highlights but didn’t include the removal of the bulletproof glass. The removal of the bulletproof glass gives criminals a license to kill and would force us to begin to carry guns, which isn’t something we want to do, although it was suggested by Councilwoman Bass. We love our neighborhoods; we don’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 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 open in our neighborhoods for the same reason we need the bulletproof glass. Forcing proprietors to remove the bulletproof glass will create a war zone, and force out businesses that are dedicated to the neighborhoods they call work and home.
Adam Xu is chairman of the Asian American Licensed Beverage Association of Philadelphia.