Philadelphia City Council members want the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections to revoke the commercial licenses of businesses that violate provisions of the city’s anti-discrimination codes.
A community meeting organized after the release of a viral video depicting a downtown gay bar owner repeatedly using the “n-word” to describe his patrons drew hundreds of concerned citizens. Councilman Derek Green, a sponsor of the anti-discrimination ordinance, was in attendance.
“Based on that hearing and those comments and concerns, I decided to introduce a bill today,” Green said during today's council session. “If you’re operating [a business] and violating our fair practices laws, you should not be allowed to operate in this city.”
Two ordinances, co-sponsored by council members Helen Gym and Mark Squilla, would make the failure to comply with Philadelphia’s “Fair Practices” code grounds for the revocation of commercial activity licenses.
It is already illegal to violate city anti-discrimination codes, according to Frank Iannuzzi, Green's legislative director. However, the city’s Human Rights Commission, which hears discrimination complaints, is not currently empowered to recommend the interruption of business operations.
The first of the two proposed ordinances would add that ability to the HRC’s toolkit.
“In addition to whichever remedies they choose from the menu that’s available, they would also make L&I aware of those violations,” Iannuzzi said.
A second ordinance would empower L&I to act on those recommendations by rescinding business licenses. The “right” of business owners to discriminate against customers is controversial, but groups like the ACLU have argued that governments can hold businesses to standards of equal service.
Iannuzzi said he did not foresee legal entanglements with business owners over the new ordinances, if passed.