DeLissio holds conversation on Town-Gown matters

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 20 – State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., facilitated a meeting with a coalition of universities comprising St. Joseph’s, Philadelphia, Temple and LaSalle, as well as representatives of the civic associations in the 194th Legislative District to discuss liquor control enforcement as it pertains to students who attend the universities and frequent the bars and neighborhoods in the 194th.


The goal of the group, also known as the Town and Gown Coalition, was to address the needs of the community and the universities regarding responsible drinking by students and to identify ways to encourage students to be responsible neighbors and students on and off campus.


Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. was represented by Josh Cohen, special assistant to the majority leader.


“It was promising to hear about the university-led programs in place for students to educate them on the perils of excessive drinking and underage drinking,” DeLissio said. “Representatives of the civics also offered ideas on how to welcome students as neighbors and to help students learn to be good neighbors while living in the community.”


Police Sgt. Dan Steele, a liquor enforcement officer, discussed the role of the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement and the fact that liquor licenses are renewed every two years. He also said that complaints are reviewed by BLCE in conjunction with that renewal process. Steele informed the attendees that he has worked with these universities, some more closely than others, for a while, and that the relationships have produced results.


He also distributed a guide to PA Liquor Laws.


The universities, at their expense, are working together to offer training programs such as TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) for bartenders and wait staff. TIPS is a skills-based training program that is designed to prevent intoxication, underage drinking and drunk driving. The first training took place two weeks ago and even though the training was offered to all bars in the Manayunk area, only two staff attended the training. 


RAMP (Responsible Alcohol Management Program) is another certification program for bar owners and managers. RAMP was created by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to help licensees and their employees to serve alcohol responsibly.


There was also discussion about the role of the city’s Licenses and Inspections department, as it pertained to the vigilant need to ensure that local rental properties were occupied by no more than three unrelated individuals.


“From understanding the roles and the process of L&I for rental properties for student housing, to how bar owners must actually read and compare information on identifications after scanning ID (fake IDs can scan successfully), to sharing public-safety hotlines and contact information, and discussing the idea of community members going to the campuses and talking to the students about their neighborhoods, this was a productive first step in the process of building a meaningful Town and Gown coalition,” DeLissio said.


“I believe that providing the opportunity for these groups to come together and discuss the fact that they are all experiencing identical concerns and have the same interest in working to find solutions for reinforcing responsible drinking was a very good use of our time.”


Patty Martin, director of government and community relations from St. Joseph's University, who was integral in bringing this issue to the forefront said, “I am extremely grateful to Representative DeLissio for her leadership in organizing this Town and Gown Coalition. All of the universities are looking forward to working with the civic association representatives to recognize their issues surrounding students living in their neighborhoods, and to continue the conversation on best practices. We are confident that this relationship will prove to be beneficial for both the universities and the community.”


Don Simon, a representative from Central Roxborough Civic, said that he thought it was a very productive meeting and a good opportunity for civic leaders to connect with the local universities about community issues around student rentals and alcohol use. 


“I look forward to continued collaboration,” he said, “and I think it’s important for this information to be disseminated to the community-at-large. I was certainly not aware of some of the efforts of the universities to manage student/community issues.


“Communication is key,” said Bill Durham, community liaison from Lasalle University.


“I believe that we have certainly established open dialog and quite industrious brainstorming and sharing among us all,” DeLissio said.


A second meeting will take place in the spring.