New York City's DOH is looking to streamline its four-year-old letter grading system and reduce the fines it collects from small business operators, reports the Wall Street Journal, via Eater NY. City officials announced at a news conference yesterday that the current system would be adjusted so that restaurants would pay fewer or reduced fines. If the amendments to the laws are approved, owners will have more opportunities to appeal and fines collected by the city would be reduced by about 25 percent.
The rules will not go into effect until they are approved by the Board of Health. Hearings will be held next month with a plan to roll out the new system by June. The new rules would also allow restaurants to request DOH-administered consultative inspections—in advance of the restaurant's official inspection—in order to receive advice without the fear of penalties. If this perk is as good as it sounds, it may put the private companies that are now filling that role out of business.
In 2010, then Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted the city's current restaurant grading system which was modeled after one used in Los Angeles. Its purpose has been to assess a restaurant's cleanliness and adherence to health department regulations. The measure, which has been deemed a success by health officials, has been met with criticism from restaurant operators, Lady Gaga's dad, and even media. Nearly a year ago, a proposal was approved with the goal of reducing DOH fines.
When Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, one of his key missions was to help small businesses that had been buried by frequent and sometimes overbearing fines. The city's current fine schedule allowed judges to impose seemingly arbitrary amounts from anywhere between $200 to $2,000. Last year, the DOH collected some $40.4 million in fines from the restaurant industry. "The rules will provide much-needed fine relief to the city's restaurants and will show that we can treat restaurants fairly without compromising public safety," said Melissa Mark-Viverito, the City Council speaker.