Friday Rant: How Municipal L&I Obstructs Small Business Investment and Diminishes Tax Revenue

Wouldn't you expect that a major east coast city would prioritize and facilitate business spend and development to maximize employment and tax revenue? Well, maybe not in a town that actively drives business and residents away via high wage taxes and an abysmal system of public education. In Philadelphia, we can also add the Department of Licenses & Inspections to the list of enticements to abandon urban commerce.

I have a close friend and rare 'long-time' boat partner who has been in the food and beverage business for over 40 years. After selling two successful restaurants he retired briefly. Jack then decided that it would be a prescient time to open yet another local bar and restaurant to provide a legacy and needed income for his adult children. A devoted city dweller, Jack purchased an old run down, dive biker bar in a somewhat blighted, but coming back neighborhood not far from what Philly calls "Center City" -- the place had been the past scene of numerous crimes and disturbances. His strategy was to replace the outdated plumbing, electrical, furniture, fixtures and kitchen equipment using local vendors. He presented his plan for a semi-upscale watering hole and restaurant to the neighborhood and it was unanimously endorsed.

As a seasoned restaurateur, he applied and paid for the required permits from L&I but has been relentlessly pestered and received "stop work" orders for pusillanimous add on permits by inspectors who seem determined to delay progress and opening. This is a total disconnect. Once open, the establishment will be paying the city a 10% beverage tax and business privilege tax based on gross receipts projected at a minimum of $5,000/ month, as well as providing needed local employment. And I won't even get into the matter of an assessed 25% insurance premium because the building next door is abandoned and deemed a fire hazard.

Philly is a Mecca of esteemed universities offering prestigious degrees in city governance and planning that hasn't filtered down to City Hall. And what's worse is that Jack beat me to the boat this afternoon because the L&I inspectors have stopped work on his project once again, rather than being able to use laptops to issue their latest round of permit requirements on site. And BTW, the 10% beverage tax that ought to be accumulating this very moment, is earmarked for elementary education.

Now lets talk about how cities should seize unsafe, collapsing abandoned properties -- even if the property taxes are paid -- and sell them for sorely needed revenue... Nah, I'd rather go night fishing.

- William Busch

Discuss this:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *