What do they mean?
Victor J. Caputo, Esq. explains:
A, C, B, A…no folks you are not looking at Junior’s report card, this is the new Health Department Grading system for restaurants. Chances are you have seen one of these letters at the entrance of some of your favorite restaurants here in Sunnyside.
What does this system mean and how does it affect patrons and restauranteurs here in Sunnyside?
First a brief history and explanation. In July, the NYC Health Department started to roll out this new grading system. Under the old system, health violations would receive a number based on severity and any establishment that had a grade, in aggregate, of 29 and over was considered “failing.” However, under the new system, restaurants will receive “grades” based on the aggregate number of points: 0-13 is an A, 14-27 is a B, and 28 and over is a C. Certain non-food related infractions are not counted toward the letter grade but do count toward the point system. Once a restaurant receives a final grade, the grade must be posted in a conspicuous location for people to easily see. Additionally, patrons can also find specifics on a restaurant at the Health Department’s website.
The Department believes that this new grading system will provide a powerful incentive for restaurants to maintain the highest sanitary standards and points out that 5,000 people per year enter city emergency rooms due to food-borne illnesses. However, the department candidly states that it expects most restaurants to get a B grade in the first year. Restauranteur associations and Chambers of Commerce question the timing of the system given the economic climate and claim that the grading system will create confusion for patrons and hurt the city’s vital tourism industry. Additionally, restauranteurs fear that any grade less than an A is a death-knell for their business.
One thing is for certain, this deluge of information will have an impact on people’s dining habits. What is one to do with all this information? As stated above, the agency expects that most restaurants will receive a B grade. Though a B grade is not severe, this means that the restaurant does have certain things to work on before its next inspection. Ultimately, the decision on where to eat given the grade and specific violation depends on the individual patron.
Now more than ever, it is important for restauranteurs to maintain a squeaky clean establishment; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Occasionally, however, certain things do fall through the cracks. If you are a restauranteur with violations, it imperative that you correct the violation, attend the hearing or have a representative do so, and vigorously contest anything you feel to be erroneous. If your restaurant receives any grade less than an A, that grade is not final until you have had a chance to appear before the Department’s Administrative Tribunal. There are options and restaurants do have the opportunity to have follow-up inspections.
Victor Caputo is a Sunnyside attorney. He can be reached at 646 801 6005 or [email protected]