Bill defining "cash for gold" stores advances in city council

    • These signs, which are what caught critics' attention, have been removed
      These signs, which are what caught critics' attention, have been removed

Cash-for-gold stores would be defined as a type of pawn shop under proposed legislation that was forwarded to city council by its Rules Committee Tuesday.

The legislation, which now heads to full council, means that such stores would not be permitted anywhere that pawn shops are not allowed. It was introduced by Fifth District Councilman Darrell Clarke,  who was inspired by a yet-unopened store on Delaware Avenue, across from SugarHouse Casino.

That store was issued an over-the-counter jewelry store permit with a precious metal dealer's license by the city's Department of Licenses & Inspections. That means that no more than 25 percent of the floor space could be dedicated to the purchasing of precious metals, and at least 75 percent of the square footage must be dedicated to jewelry sales.

But when large, green neon-signs were lit in the windows of the row-house sized structure, they advertised cash-for-gold. None advertised jewelry and inside, the small space contained one display counter of the kind seen in jewelry stores. Behind it was a large security window with a small circle to speak into and a pass-through.

To neighbors – and Clarke – cash-for-gold stores are already a type of pawn shop, and pawn shops are prohibited in the area. But the pawn shop definition in the code had no specific reference to cash-for-gold businesses.

When the Planning Commission, which supports the bill, reviewed the proposal, planners reported that these stores are popping up in other areas where pawn shops are not allowed, not just across from SugarHouse.

Should council decide to pass the ordinance – which it could do as soon as its June 16 meeting – the store that inspired Clarke's action and any others that are already permitted would not be impacted, since it is already permitted.

This does not necessarily mean smooth sailing for the Delaware Avenue store, however. L&I issued a cease order because those green neon cash-for-gold signs were not permitted. They have since been taken down. The store also needs a certificate of occupancy permit, and Planning Commission Chairman Alan Greenberger, who is also deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said at the May planning commission meeting that if it isn't really a jewelry store, it will get another cease order.

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About the author

Kellie Patrick Gates, Waterfront, casinos, planning reporter

Kellie Patrick Gates writes about planning, neighborhood development and the Central Delaware Waterfront. A journalist for more than two decades, she  worked for daily newspapers in Central Pennsylvania, Upstate New York and South Florida before coming to Philadelphia in 2003 to write for the Inquirer. Her work has appeared on PlanPhilly since 2007, and she also writes Love, the Inquirer's weekly wedding column. A native of Elk County, Pa., Kellie lives with her husband, Gary, and their dog and two cats.

Follow her on Twitter @KelliePGates

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