Attorney: Plenty Of Eateries Massaging System, Getting Lower Grades Tossed

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City’s restaurant grading program has hit a milestone.

Every single eatery — all 24,000 — has been inspected and assigned a letter grade. With a whopping number getting the top grade, an “A,” some are wondering if there’s a little grade inflation going on, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

An “A” here, an “A” there — “A” grades are seemingly everywhere in Gotham eateries.

But it’s tough for some diners to digest.

“I think like most schools today they’re giving high As and not too many Bs or Cs these days,” one person said.

You will find the occasional lesser grade, but a whopping 76 percent of NYC food service establishments have scored an “A.”

“You don’t know if they’re, like, cheating the system,” one diner surmised.

“Cheating” is a strong word, but there’s no doubt some are “working” the system. After getting a “B” or a “C” grade dozens of eateries have challenged bad inspection reports and had them tossed on technicalities, according to a restaurant industry lawyer.

“It’s true that on occasion they do make typographical errors that lead to a violation being completely dismissed,” said Kevin O’Donoghue of Helbraun & Levey.

Far more restaurants — about 2,600 — have won an “A” grade after convincing a hearing officer the violations found by an inspector were insufficient to merit a lower grade. Many in the industry say they’re getting As because they’re working hard.

Enrollment in the Health Department’s food safety courses has skyrocketed — from about 9,000 restaurant workers in 2008, to more than 14,000 this year.

“We definitely work hard to offer good, clean hygienic service,” said Kelly Rossberg, a cook at “Bar Nine.”

And that has paid off for Bar Nine, which went from a “C” in July to an “A” in September. The city says improvements like that is a major goal of the grading program.

If the 76 percent getting “A” grades seems high, consider Los Angeles, where more than 80 percent of eateries there have scored an “A.”

Do you think something is fishy here? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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