City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the Health Department announced today they are releasing for public comment new restaurant grading rules designed to reduce fines and provide additional educational resources to help restaurants maintain their high health standards and succeed throughout New York City. In the last fiscal year, fines collected fell 23 percent from its peak in fiscal year 2012. Under the new rules, which include fixed penalties, restaurants will see a further reduction of 25 percent in fines, returning to pre-grading levels despite more frequent inspections. Restaurant owners will also have the opportunity to request a consultative, ungraded and penalty-free inspection to receive tailored advice about maintaining the best food safety practices at their establishment. This will help restaurants prepare for their next inspection and give them the information and tools to improve their chances to earn an A. Speaker Mark-Viverito and Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett were joined by Council Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson, Small Business Committee Chair Robert Cornegy, Council Member Vincent J. Gentile and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer for the announcement.
In addition to the reduced fines and penalty-free inspections, the collaboration between the City Council and the Health Department will make the entire inspection process more transparent and inclusive of small business owners.
The City Council has worked extensively to reform the City’s restaurant grading system. In October, following comprehensive forums, hearings, and a citywide restaurant inspection survey conducted by the Council, the Council passed a sweeping legislative package to improve the oversight and the performance of the restaurant inspection system.
The legislation established a new position of ombudsperson in the Office of Food Safety to respond to restaurant complaints, and expanded the Department’s food safety advisory committee, which includes nutritionists, food safety experts, and representatives from the restaurant industry. This committee will provide an ongoing review of the letter grading program.
The Health Department also announced the implementation of two other changes negotiated with the Council. Restaurants whose scores become less than 14 points after adjudication on its initial inspection will not have to pay any fines for the remaining sanitary violations on that inspection. Additionally, the Health Department will not issue a violation for a structural problem if prior inspections failed to notice it and conditions have not been changed, though the restaurant will still be required to fix it.