Philadelphia Okays Bill to Remove Bullet-Resistant Windows

Asian American merchant community say removing the barrier exposes them to injury and robbery.

December 18, 2017

PHILADELPHIA – Last week, the Philadelphia City Council voted to approve a bill that most council members said would enhance neighborhoods, but that the merchant community said would jeopardize their safety and livelihood, reports

The measure calls for the removal of bullet-resistant safety windows at citywide delis and retail establishments. The news source says that much of the bill categorizes food establishments by size for city licensing purposes, but one paragraph “generated huge protests and polarized communities, exposing fissures involving race, class, and perceptions of immigrants.”

The paragraph in question called for banning bullet-resistant windows in large food establishments, which brings beer deli owners into the fold because state law requires them to have at least 30 seats, notes the news source. Councilwoman Cindy Bass introduced the bill on November 2 to rid the city of what she calls illegal stop-and-go outlets: “Sometimes they sell food. Mostly they don’t. …They aren’t delis. …They’re the modern-day pusher,” she said, referring to outlets that sell  fruit-flavored cigarillos, and candy next to alcohol.

However, many beer deli owners, who are largely Asian American, say that removing the safety barrier exposes them to safety concerns such as robbery and injury. reports that on December 4, the Council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services amended the bill, removing the mandatory window ban on large establishments, and instead instructing the Department of Licenses and Inspections to issue by January 1, 2021, regulations for “the use or removal of any physical barrier” in places that serve food and alcohol. However, beer deli owners and their supporters still saw the amended bill as risking their lives.

Mayoral spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said in statement Mayor Jim Kenney plans to sign the bill, adding that the bill “does not require the removal of plexiglass—it gives L&I three years to convene a diverse group of stakeholders to decide how the plexiglass issue is to be handled—that could mean L&I ultimately decides to leave the plexiglass as is, to remove it completely, or something in between.”