Gov. Wolf on Wednesday signed into law a measure aimed at curbing so-called stop-and-go delis, stores that skirt state alcohol laws to sell individual beers and liquor shots.
Flanked in a Tioga neighborhood by Mayor Kenney and a host of officials and community activists, Wolf said the law would let the Liquor Control Board immediately suspend the licenses of retailers caught flouting the law and make it easier for them to act quickly on complaints from law enforcement and health officials.
He said it would help end what has long been a cat-and-mouse game between offending license owners and regulators.
"Once the license is in their hand, these operators tend to revert to bad behavior, shady practices that don't meet the requirements of the Liquor Control Board," he said. "Because these operators are focused on to-go sales or on serving drinks to customers who leave quickly afterwards, these establishments have caused a number of problems for our communities and for our neighborhoods."
The nuisance of stop-and-go delis has long been an issue in some city neighborhoods.
The law requires such servers of alcohol to offer food and have seating for 30. But violators have ignored or skirted those parameters ﹘ sometimes by merely offering store-bought ramen noodles or bags of chips ﹘ in order to serve individual beers and shots.
Critics have complained about public drunkenness and misbehavior, a result of customers consuming their purchases on the street outside the stores. Community leaders complain of people drinking in the mornings as their kids walk to school, people passed out drunk on the sidewalk, and underage kids getting booze and tobacco products without ID.
Stop-and-go delis "meet the letter of the law, that's true," Wolf said. "But they don't meet the spirit of the law, and once inspections are over, they don't meet the law itself."
The signing was held outside Devereux United Methodist Church in Tioga, a neighborhood where stop-and-go grievances have reached a fever pitch this year.
Kenney said that the state has done its part in passing legislation, and that now it's in the city's hands to keep stop-and-go stores in check. "I want to commit our resources … to really take this legislation and this power now and move it into the neighborhoods and enforce it for change," the mayor said.
State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.), who supported the bill, spoke of the frustration of residents near stop-and-go delis. "This is for this community," Hughes said. "I think we all wanted to come back to the community to let the community know, you know, this process does work. It takes a while, but it does work. It does have an impact."