Community activists finally got a win against “Stop and Go” corner liquor stores as Governor Wolf signed a bill last month cracking down on these nuisance establishments.
For years, activists in Allegheny West fought what seemed a losing battle against a surge of corner convenience stores whose only convenience seemed to be cheap beer and alcohol shots to go. Advertisements outside for cheesesteaks, hoagies and Chinese food didn’t square with what was inside — no chairs, tables, or even food.
Kids going to school and neighbors often had to avoid patrons either passed out, rowdy, or urinating outdoors. Fights broke out and police cars rolled from corner to corner breaking up scuffles that would ignite again after the cops moved along to the next call or the combatants were released from custody.
All the while, activists such as Darece Williford of the Community Action Group and Rose Cooper of the Ridge, Allegheny, Hunting Park Civic Association kept pushing for a change, calling their representatives and filing reports even as new Stop and Gos popped up like weeds.
Finally last month, their efforts paid off as Governor Wolf joined a host of legislators, including Pam DeLissio and Cindy Bass, to sign a bill that gives the Liquor Control Board more authority to shut down nuisance establishments.
“We’ve had violation after violation after violation in many of these stores,” said Rep. Jordan Harris. “Nobody should have to see this in their neighborhood,” Harris said.
And Bass has introduced a resolution to tighten the city’s requirements to get a liquor license.
“Neighbors should not feel like they are being held hostage to bad businesses,” she said.
The new bill gives the LCB the power to immediately suspend the license of any establishment that doesn’t meet the seating, square footage, food or health requirements under the state Liquor Code. The law also gives local government entities the power to make recommendations to the LCB to investigate establishments believed to be failing to meet code requirements.
Pam DeLissio applauded Governor Wolf for help with an issue that “has plagued Philadelphia neighborhoods for decades.” She was particularly proud of the work of Williford’s Community Action Group, that has “clearly made a difference not only for their neighborhood, but all of Philadelphia.”
Mark Green, the 38th Democratic Ward leader, was thankful too. “These places made things worse in many neighborhoods and they took away community and police resources trying to stay on top of them, but now there’s a way to shut them down. It’s a great thing.”