A proposed City Council bill could give registered community organizations a say in whether “nuisance businesses” can keep their licenses, if those businesses accumulate enough violations during a 60-day or one-year period.
The “Responsible Business Operations” bill, introduced by Councilwoman Cindy Bass, would suspend the licenses of any business with more than three violations in 60 days and more than seven violations during one year. A nuisance business with a revoked license would be required to meet with a registered community organization, also known as RCO, or a member of City Council to regain the license.
Some examples of nuisances that could create violations include excessive noise, public urination, loitering, littering and illegal consumption of alcoholic beverages—which make bars a likely target.
In the Cecil B. Moore community, the RCO in question is Beech Community Services, headquartered on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 16th Street.
“This would make businesses more accountable to the community,” Beech’s Director of Community Services Christine Brown said. “[We] will know exactly what’s going on and that information can be filtered out to people so folks aren’t left out in the dark and not knowing what’s going on with these [nuisance] businesses.”
Nuisance businesses are a concern for other RCOs that don’t work closely with businesses, like Temple Area Property Association. Peter Crawford, a representative, said some property owners in places like the 1600 and 1700 blocks of Susquehanna Avenue are a problem, with some businesses receiving violations for loitering, alleged drug dealing and even shootings outside.
Crawford, however, isn’t sold on the bill.
“It gives the community a stronger voice,” Crawford said. “On the other hand, you have to remember RCOs were created originally for zoning purposes so here we’re seeing a bill that expands their role to another area. They’re not elected organizations, they’re not always transparent organizations. … There is some concern about how far is council going to go to expand the powers of these [RCOs].”
“I do believe that businesses could benefit by addressing the community’s concerns and interacting more with civic associations,” Crawford added.
If the property of the business is sold, the new owner still must work with an RCO to re-obtain the business license, according to the proposed bill.
In a FAQ distributed by Bass’ office, the bill is supposed to improve relations between the community and businesses.
“Just like shoveling your walk after a snowstorm, otherwise you get fined, this bill is about being a good neighbor and community member,” the FAQ read.
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick