July 12, 2013
By Diane Cohen
New York, NY – A legislative package designed to improve the City’s restaurant inspection program while continuing to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers has been introduced in the New York City Council. In 2010, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) introduced a letter grading system with the worthy goals of assisting the public to make informed decisions about where to dine, improving restaurant compliance with health and safety regulations, and reducing food-borne illnesses attributable to restaurants.
Since the introduction of letter grading, however – which caused an increase in the frequency of inspections – restaurants raised concerns about the system to the Speaker and Council Members in meetings and at forums, through the Council’s citywide Restaurant Inspection Survey and during a March 2012 oversight hearing of the DOHMH. Principal among the issues raised by restaurateurs, advocates and experts were the increased fine burden on restaurants since the introduction of the letter grading system, inconsistencies across inspections and frayed and adversarial relations between DOHMH and restaurants.
“With this legislative package, we’re taking steps to ensure that the restaurant inspection process is fair. These reforms will improve the lives of struggling restaurant owners, the workers they employ and the families they support, while preserving a system that protects the safety of New Yorkers,” said Speaker Quinn.
The legislative changes to the inspection process was a reaction from restaurant associations across the city. Andrew Moesel, Spokesman for the NY State Restaurant Association said that “Restaurants have been under attack for the last several years, and we need smart officials who understand that the hospitality industry, and all small businesses, are the heart of New York City's economy.”