Q: How many murders, violent assaults, and non-anonymous complaints about noise, trash, and disorderly conduct does it take for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to shut down a bar?
A: Who knows?
Already this year, 12 people have been killed inside or directly outside of bars [in Philadelphia]. Only three had been killed at the same point last year.Clearly, the PLCB assigns more priority to enforcing paperwork in tony neighborhoods than to easing violent crime in sketchier ones.
With the increase in shootings, police districts have focused their attention on problem bars, especially at closing time.
But shuttering those truly troublesome bars is not something that happens quickly. It takes time, something that authorities blame on Pennsylvania's ineffective liquor laws.
Although police are forced to deal with numerous nuisance bars each weekend, the Public Nuisance Task Force - a unit of the District Attorney's Office - has shut down only three bars since 2008.
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The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board can refuse to issue or renew a liquor license, but has no authority to close a bar.
The Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement investigates about 100 cases a month, said State Police Sgt. Bill LaTorre, but the bureau can only issue citations, conduct investigations and make arrests. An administrative-law judge can suspend or revoke a liquor license based on the citations brought against licensees by the bureau.
"The neighborhood has to be victimized for a matter of time in order for us to go into court," LaTorre said. "That's the system that's in place right now. The legislators need to look at the laws and update them. Until the law gets changed, nothing is going to change."