October 11, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Restaurant owners bristling over the city's letter grading system since it was implemented three years ago, are now getting some relief after the City Council passed a package of bills designed to help eateries avoid being slapped with anything less than a stellar "A."
"I know a lot of people who won't go into [a restaurant or eatery] without an "A," City Councilman James Vacca told LaborPress earlier this week.
Part of the package of five bills to get the green light will actually give restauranteurs the ability to request a kind of "dry run" before Department of Health inspectors drop in for official inspections that result in the often dreaded letter grades.
"It's like a rehearsal," New York City Council Speaker said at a press conference announcing the new measures. "There will be far less 'gotcha' than we've had in the past."
A confident Councilwoman Maria Del Carmen Arroyo proclaimed that legislators were going to make "a lot of restaurant owners happy."
"It's going to make real sense for the restaurant industry," Councilwoman Arroyo said. "It's not perfect, but it will go a long way to addressing the concerns over the last few years."
The package deal, which also calls for the creation of a 20-member advisory board comprised of restaurant owners, industry representatives, food safety experts and nutritionists, was hammered out over the summer and is expected to be implemented before the year is out – with or without support from the current mayor.
Outgoing Councilwoman Diana Reyna said that the letter grading system as currently implemented has become "a long and complicated process," and that restaurant owners and operators felt as if their concerns about the financial hardships they have reportedly been experiencing were not being heard.
"We will be able to provide restaurant owners and advocates a detailed record of when, where, what and how city inspectors are regulating restaurants, and we will be able to track any progress we make in terms of lessening the burden that small businesses face," Councilwoman Reyna said.
Under the existing grading system, Councilman Vacca complained that many otherwise satisfactory restaurants are actually being hit with poor marks because of non-food related infractions like "having an uncovered light bulb."
Now, however, that will seemingly no longer be the case, according to fellow Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who sponsored the bill giving restaurant owners and operators the opportunity to request a "consultative inspection" prior to the real thing.
"No longer will New York City's restauranteurs be caught by surprise and vilified for minor infractions they did not know would have serious consequences for their establishment's bottom line," Councilman Van Bramer said.