Does Philly’s law to crack down on businesses being bad neighbors work?

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About eight years ago, Philly City Councilmember Cindy Bass joined then-Mayor Jim Kenney to sign a new citywide law.

After decades of communities struggling to hold businesses who were being bad neighbors accountable, there was hope the city would have the power to shut down any businesses that allowed any illegal activity nearby.

It was a simple system: Neighbors would report a business, the city would keep track of violations, notify the business of the issues and either force them to stop or threaten to shut them down. If the businesses didn’t comply, the store would be shuttered.

But it’s unclear whether the city shut down any violators, as a public records request by WHYY News yielded not a single store closed as a result of this law.

Or, at least, the city has yet to issue a final cease operations order, despite being given the power to do it for eight years.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t businesses the city is watching after getting complaints or through internal investigations. A sampling of six different police districts shows there are at least seven businesses being monitored for chronic issues as of January 2024. But the city won’t reveal any addresses, citing potential non-criminal investigations such as complaints which are shielded from public review under state law.

Those active investigations are in part because in recent months, city leaders — including Councilmember Bass — realized that the law needs more attention to work.

  • February 9, 2024
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